Source: Voice of America Contact: Pubdate: Fri, 28 Nov 1997 AFGHAN DRUGS BylineAli Zaidi DatelineIslamabad Intro: In Afghanistan, the Taleban authorities have given a commitment to eradicate the cultivation of opium poppy in areas under their control. As Ali Zaidi reports from Islamabad, the United Nations Drug Control Program (UNDCP) in return would invest millions of dollars in alternative development projects over the next ten years. Text: The newly appointed chief of the United Nations drug control program Pino Arlacchi says the Taleban have agreed to cooperate with the agency in an ambitious new project to eliminate opium poppy production in Afghanistan. Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, Mr. Arlacchi said he held meetings with Taleban leaders during a recent trip to the country. He said they agreed to start enforcing the ban on poppy in the province of Kandahar. According to a United Nations survey, Afghanistan produces almost 50 percent of the world's opium, which is used to make heroin. More than 90 percent of Afghanistan's opium, estimated at about 28hundred tons, is grown in areas now controlled by the Taleban. The Taleban have committed to destroy all new cultivation of poppy, as well as to destroy all heroin making laboratories. In return, Mr. Arlacchi said the UN will initiate alternative development projects in Kandahar aimed at providing the area's people with other means of livelihood. The pilot project in Kandahar is estimated to cost threepointeight million dollars. Mr. Arlacchi said the UN hopes to achieve a significant reduction in poppy cultivation in the area within one year. He said if the pilot project is successful and the Taleban cooperate as promised, the UN would enlarge the scope of the program throughout areas controlled by the Taleban. A 10 year program to fully eliminate poppy cultivation is expected to cost 25 million dollars per year. Mr. Arlacchi said the Taleban's main motivation in cooperating in the poppy eradication project was religious. He said the Taleban view drug use and cultivation as against Islamic principles. Among the projects the UN will initiate in Kandahar is the reestablishment of a wool factory, which would create 12hundred jobs. Mr. Arlacchi said the Taleban authorities have agreed to the United Nations' condition to allow women as part of the labor force in the factory. Projects will also be initiated to help farmers in crop substitution strategies and to repair infrastructure. As part of the agreement, the UN teams will have free access to all areas controlled by the Taleban. The agreement is not formal, since the taleban government is not recognised by the United Nations. Mr. Arlacchi said he expected the agreement to be honored, but would not say how much more optimistic the outlook for this project was compared to previous such efforts in Afghanistan. // Arlacchi act// it's not a question of optimism or pessimism. We are doing an agreement and we will see. I mean, it's not a question of confidence, optimism or pessimism. There is an agreement between two parties, and we are committed to this agreement and we will see if the other party will be committed to the same level we are. // End act // Mr. Arlacchi said a similar proposal has been made to the northern alliance in Afghanistan.