New scheme to control smuggling of chemicals used to produce heroin

KABUL, 8 May 2006 (IRIN) - To stem the import of key chemicals used in the production of heroin to Afghanistan, the government and the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC), have initiated a joint project to counter smuggling of these chemicals, the UN said on Monday in the capital Kabul.
According to government officials, the processing of opium into morphine and heroin is increasingly taking place inside Afghanistan, requiring that precursor chemicals be smuggled into the country in large quantities. The war-torn country is already producing nearly 90 percent of the world opium.

"UNODC in partnership with Counter Narcotics Police of Afghanistan (CNPA) will establish a Precursor Control Unit (PCU) within the CNPA and also training on precursor control will be provided to border officials and those policing drugs," Adrian Edwards, spokesman for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), told a press briefing.

"Trained interdiction officers will also receive equipment used to identify and detect illicit chemicals," Edwards noted.

The PCU will analyse seized chemicals used in heroin production and determine their country of origin. The PCU also aims to identify the illegal smuggling routes taken by the chemicals with a view to targeting and dismantling international trafficking organisations, the MCN and UNODC said in a joint statement.

"These precursor chemicals destroy the lives of our brothers and sisters, the chemicals cause insecurity and terrorism in villages and communities all over Afghanistan," said Gen Mohammad Daud, Deputy Interior Minister for Counter Narcotics.

Up until December 2005, over 400 suspects involved in illicit drug trafficking had been detained and the country's special anti-narcotics forces had destroyed over 150 mt of opium and closed down over 170 drug-processing laboratories across the country, according to the interior ministry.

Afghanistan's economy continues to rely heavily on the trade in illicit drugs. The UN and the government have estimated the total export value of Afghanistan's opium in 2005 at $2.7 billion - equivalent to 52 percent of the country's official gross domestic product (GDP).

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