TEHRAN, 10 November 2006 (UNODC) - The head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Antonio Maria Costa, urged Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran on Friday to share intelligence on drug trafficking, both among themselves and with the international community.
At the end of a three-day visit to Iran, he said the country's police were scoring major successes in intercepting drugs from Afghanistan, the world's largest opium producer, but could do considerably more if they were able to exchange intelligence about drug shipments with their neighbours.
"Afghanistan has produced a record 6,100 tons of opium this year and about 80 per cent of this will flow through Pakistan and Iran," the UNODC Executive Director said. "Only about a quarter of this is likely to be intercepted - about half the success rate with the world cocaine trade."
"I urge these three countries and their international partners to establish an intelligence-sharing platform, modeled on those which UNODC is already helping to set up in Central Asia and the Gulf."
In February this year, five Central Asian countries, plus Russia and Azerbaijan, agreed to set up a new Central Asia Regional Information and Coordination Centre in Almaty, Kazakhstan to compile and analyse intelligence on drug trafficking and coordinate regional law enforcement operations.
In September, the Government of Qatar agreed to host a new state-of-the-art criminal intelligence centre in Doha to help Gulf countries combat drugs.
"If counter-narcotics police in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran share intelligence, they could really hit the traffickers hard," Mr. Costa said. Iran seized 231 tons of opium in 2005, more than any other country, followed by Pakistan, which intercepted only 6.4 tons.
Mr. Costa called on the international community to support this intelligence-sharing initiative and said UNODC would provide its technical expertise.
"We need to counter the well-armed, well-financed and well-equipped criminal gangs with an equally effective law enforcement and intelligence response and to cooperate as easily across borders as they do. Otherwise the criminals will always be one step ahead."
At a meeting with the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, on Thursday, the UNODC Executive Director paid tribute to the more than 3,600 Iranian police officers who have been killed during anti-narcotics operations since 1979. More than 15,000 have been maimed.
"Iran has paid a heavy price for the huge scale of drug production in Afghanistan," he said.
The discussion with President Ahmadinejad centred on efforts in Afghanistan to face the double threat of growing insurgency and increasing opium production.
"The deteriorating situation in Afghanistan raises the stakes for all parties, in the region and beyond," Mr. Costa said. Iran was playing an increasingly important role in the region but this brought with it growing responsibility, both for Iran and for other actors. The Iranian authorities should support the work of drug liaison officers at foreign embassies in Tehran.
Mr. Costa said he was pleased that President Ahmadinejad strongly supported efforts to give Afghan farmers viable alternatives to growing opium.
During his visit, the UNODC chief also met senior Iranian government ministers, the Head of the Judiciary, the Head of the Police and Members of Parliament.
He made a helicopter trip to the borders with Afghanistan and Pakistan, accompanied by Iran's top counter-narcotics official Dr. Fada Hossein Maaleki, Secretary General of Iran's Drug Control Headquarters.
Mr. Costa said UNODC had strengthened its programmes in Iran. Its current portfolio, worth $21.3 million over three years, focuses on countering drug trafficking, preventing and treating drug abuse and HIV/AIDS and promoting the rule of law through crime prevention and anti-corruption measures.
The UN drugs chief said UNODC was committed to supporting Iranian initiatives in the prevention and treatment of drug addiction and reintegration of addicts, combined with effective law-enforcement.
"Iran sits next to the world's largest supply of drugs and half of its population is under 24, so not surprisingly it also suffers from one of the highest rates of drug addiction in the world," he said.
Related audio clips of UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa: Clip 1 - clip 2 - clip 3 - clip 4 - clip 5. (To save the clips, right-click on the link and choose "Save Target As..." from the menu.)
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