June 11, 2008 / 8:27 PM / 11 years ago

UN council takes aim at Afghan heroin production

UNITED NATIONS, June 11 (Reuters) - The Security Council called on U.N. member states on Wednesday to step up measures to combat smuggling of chemicals used to make heroin into Afghanistan, the world’s largest opium producer and exporter.

Afghanistan’s poppy fields produced 93 percent of the world’s opium last year, but Afghan officials say drug traffickers are increasingly using chemicals to convert it into heroin before it is shipped abroad.

The Afghan ambassador to the United Nations hailed Wednesday’s resolution, drafted by France, which will host a 65-nation donor conference on Afghanistan on Thursday, as a blow at Taliban insurgents who profit from the drug trade.

Illegal drugs could be worth more than $3 billion a year to the Afghan economy, and U.N. experts say the Taliban impose a 10 percent tax on poppy farmers and also on the drug traffickers to finance their insurgency.

The resolution urged U.N. members to strengthen monitoring of the international trade in the chemical "precursors" used by drug traffickers, including acetic anhydride, hydrochloric acid and acetone, to prevent their diversion for illicit use in Afghanistan.

The text, passed unanimously by the 15-nation council, also called on members to comply with a 1988 U.N. convention against drug trafficking "in order to eliminate loopholes utilized by criminal organizations" to divert chemicals.

It further recommended that countries tighten up the system of notification of exports of such chemicals, which have other legitimate uses, and adopt laws if necessary to regulate their manufacture and trade.

The resolution contained no new measures to prevent the smuggling of chemicals.

Afghanistan Ambassador to the U.N. Zahir Tanin said the resolution would tackle what he called "this nexus between terrorism and drugs, and we think that’s going to galvanize our efforts."

"If we are able to work together to stop the arrival of precursors, we will break a chain which is the production of heroin inside the country," he told reporters.

French envoy Jean-Pierre Lacroix told the Security Council that the issue of precursors was "a weak link where we can and should step up our endeavors."

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