Southwest Asia: Iranian Official Says Country Could Ignore Drug Traffickers if UN Doesn't Up Anti-Drug Aid 6/30/06

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Iranian officials used the occasion of the United Nations' global anti-drug day to criticize the lack of Western help in their effort to stop the tons of opium and heroin crossing through their country on its way from Afghanistan to Europe and warn they could turn a blind eye to the traffic if the UN doesn't come up with a massive increase in its anti-drug assistance.

With a long border with Afghanistan, the world's leading opium producer, Iran is being flooded with heroin and opium. While much of it is destined for European markets, enough is falling off the truck to make Iran the country with the world's highest rate of heroin addiction. Iranian border guards, police, and armed forces regularly do battle with armed smugglers from Afghanistan and Pakistan. More than 3,500 Iranian law enforcement and military personnel and 10,000 smugglers have died in the chronic low-level conflict in the past two decades.

This year, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) provided $13 million to Iran for anti-drug efforts. But in remarks reported by the Fars News Agency, Iranian Anti-Drug Headquarters Secretary General Fada-Hossein Maleki said the UN needs to kick in $500 million for anti-smuggling, prevention, and treatment efforts inside Iran or Iran could just look the other way as Europe is flooded with Afghan heroin.

"For the moment, we do not allow drugs to transit, but if they do not aid us we will naturally reconsider," he told reporters on Sunday. "The West should have a lot to fear if Iran changes its policy," Maleki said, adding that Iran "cannot tolerate a selective attitude in contributing financial aid" to the war on drugs.

Iran has made tremendous efforts to block the traffic from Afghanistan, but with an 800-mile border across some very rugged and remote terrain, its efforts are more or less in vain unless somebody does something to rein in Afghan opium production, the drug czar complained. "All these US and British forces could stop poppy cultivation in Afghanistan if they wanted to," said Maleki.

Maleki's shot across the bow of the West was echoed by Iranian Prosecutor-General Ghorban-Ali Najaf-Abadi, also speaking at the global anti-drug day ceremony. If the West refuses to help Iran in its efforts to stop the traffic, he said, Iran would have to reprioritize. The Islamic Republic is struggling without enough resources and "in the meantime, we always review our policies and try to make optimal use of our experiences," he said. "If Western countries refuse to render assistance to Iran, we will not allocate such a large volume of our human and financial resources to a task which inflicts losses on Iran, but yields profits for the world."

Najf-Abadi also criticized the West for not striking harder against the trade that helps finance Islamic radicalism in Afghanistan and Pakistan. "Today, some world powers allege that they are fighting terrorism, but actually they are not fighting its roots, because the financial resources of terrorism are provided through the drug production industry and money laundry, which are both ignored by the said powers."

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Issue #442 -- 6/30/06

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Feature: Reefer Madness from the United Nations on International Anti-Drug Day | Feature: Summer Music Festival Season is Here, and So Are Police Checkpoints -- Know Your Rights! | Follow-Up: Medical Marijuana Gains Support in Congress -- Slightly -- Some Surprises | DRCNet Book Review: Race to Incarcerate, Revised Edition," by Marc Mauer (2006, The New Press, $15.95 PB) | "Scoops" in Drug War Chronicle Last Week | Law Enforcement: This Week's Corrupt Cops Stories | Law Enforcement: Revelation of Major Sleaze Among "Operation Lively Green" Informants, Cover-Up by FBI Agent | Newsbrief: California Legislature Votes to Gut Prop. 36 -- Court Challenge Imminent | Harm Reduction: Responding to Wave of Fentanyl Overdose Deaths, Senator Durbin Proposes OD Prevention Bill | Hemp: California Industrial Hemp Bill Wins Another Committee Vote | Europe: Italian Ministers Announce Drug Law Revisions | Southwest Asia: Iranian Official Says Country Could Ignore Drug Traffickers if UN Doesn't Up Anti-Drug Aid | Web Scan: Government Waste, Len Bias Legacy, World Drug Report, Zogby Poll, John Stossel, Steph Sherer, Nathan Riley | Weekly: This Week in History | Weekly: The Reformer's Calendar

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