Pubdate: Sun, 28 May 2006
Source: Daily Times (Pakistan)
Copyright: 2006 Daily Times
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)
Bookmark: (Heroin)


KABUL: The upper house of Afghan parliament wants a London-based 
group pushing for the legalisation of Afghanistan's huge opium crop 
to leave the country, the counternarcotics ministry said Saturday.

A meeting of the upper house last week decided the Senlis Council 
"should stop their activities in Afghanistan and leave this country," 
the ministry said in a statement. The international think-tank has 
been pushing for Afghanistan to legalise its opium crop, which 
supplies up to 90 percent of the heroin used in Europe, saying crop 
eradication will never work. The group says opium production should 
be licenced and the crop used to make legal painkillers for 
developing countries, which it says have a growing demand for these drugs.

The upper house said the activities of the Senlis Council were 
against a ruling by religious leaders against drugs, as well as the 
constitution, which also prohibits their production and use.

The government and the United Nations, a key partner in Afghanistan's 
efforts to cut its opium production, have long rejected the council's 
ideas as impractical. In "the current circumstances, there is no 
control mechanism and strong security in many areas of Afghanistan," 
the ministry's statement said. "If allowed, licencing poppy 
cultivation would have helped and supported the enemies of this 
country, particularly the drug traffickers."

Senlis Council country manager Guillaume Fournier said they had not 
been officially told to pack up and leave. The group's message, that 
crop eradication does not work, should be part of the political 
debate of a democratic Afghanistan, Fournier added. Afghanistan is 
trying to deal with its flourishing opium trade, which experts say is 
fuelling the Taliban-led insurgency, by destroying opium fields and 
encouraging farmers to grow other less lucrative crops. The United 
Nations and the Afghan government have estimated the total export 
value of Afghanistan's opium in 2005 at 2.7 billion dollars, 
equivalent to 52 percent of the country's official gross domestic product.
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman