March 12, 2009 / 9:01 PM / 11 years ago

U.N. members differ on way ahead in drugs wars

VIENNA (Reuters) - U.N. member states agreed on Thursday to pursue a “war on drugs” policy for 10 more years despite critics’ protests that the strategy had allowed drug cartels to flourish and helped spread HIV.

The goal remained to eliminate or reduce significantly the flow of heroin, cocaine and cannabis, a declaration said.

But European Union delegates at the U.N. Commission for Narcotic Drugs (CND) convention voiced frustration over its lack of attention to so-called “harm-reduction” measures.

These include needle-exchanges for intravenous addicts, safe drug consumption rooms and provision of heroin and syringes in prisons — steps seen as helping to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and other blood-borne diseases.

The U.N. conference had noted soaring production and trafficking of some drugs and an alarming rise in HIV infections among injecting addicts.

Germany said that since the goals of the U.N.’s previous 10-year anti-drug plan had not been met, “more of the same is not enough.”

German Ambassador Ruediger Luedeking said harm-reduction was not meant to replace drug control efforts, rather curb health risks of drug abuse.

Foes of such programs, including the United States, Russia, China, Japan and Italy, said they legitimize drug use and undermine law enforcement and public morality.

Harm reduction is common in Western states and Latin America but banned in Russia, hard-hit by an HIV epidemic spread by dirty needles.

Critics of the declaration also said it lacked references to decriminalizing drug users so as to rehabilitate them rather than put them in prison.

The document pledged international coordination to tackle drug problems, especially transnational trafficking industries whose profits have allowed them to undermine entire states through bribery and violence.

Intelligence-sharing and cross-border enforcement were priorities, the document said.

U.N. officials say many nations have not applied U.N. conventions against crime and corruption and are rife with border, army and police officials on the take.

Editing by Angus MacSwan

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