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Tajik leader says West fails to combat Afghan drugs

Written by: Staff
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DUSHANBE, May 15 (Reuters) - Tajik President Imomali Rakhmonov accused foreign donors and the U.S-led military coalition in neighbouring Afghanistan today of failing toalleviate the poverty that let illegal drug production flourish.

''Since the anti-terrorist operation started in Afghanistan (in September 2001) drug production has tripled,'' Rakhmonov told a conference in the Tajik capital Dushanbe on preventing drugs trafficking.

''Various donors write reports about Afghanistan saying the crop is lower but the yield is higher. Who needs all these reports? A billion in aid won't solve the problem, you need to create jobs in Afghanistan,'' he said.

Tajikistan, an impoverished ex-Soviet state, lies on one of the main trafficking routes for heroin and other drugs out of Afghanistan.

Last year the Tajik government took over control of its 1,400-km (875-miles) border with Afghanistan from the Russian border guards who had been in charge of patrolling it, leading to fears of a surge in smuggling.

Although those fears have not been borne out, the continued high rates of reported drugs seizures only represent a fraction of the actual amount of drugs passing through the country on their way to Russia and Europe.

Rakhmonov said Tajikistan was doing what it could to fight the trafficking, arresting and sentencing 800 officials for involvement in the trade in the last five years.

He said Europe should divert a fraction of the funds it spends on dealing with the consequences of drug addiction to helping eradicate production and trafficking.

''(In Afghanistan) there's a huge army of unemployed that presents fertile soil for narcotics production, which itself is the main means of financing international terrorism, extremism and trans-border crime,'' he said.

REUTERS SHB VC1852

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