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Archive for Saturday, March 10, 2007

Official: End of opium cultivation gets closer

March 10, 2007

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— The international community is making significant strides toward ridding northern Afghanistan of opium, a U.S. counter-narcotics official said Friday, despite setbacks in the Taliban-controlled south and forecasts of another record year of poppy cultivation.

Tom Schweich, the U.S. principal deputy assistant secretary for international narcotics, said rapid assessment surveys conducted earlier this year showed a "dramatic" decrease in poppy growing in Afghanistan's northern provinces.

In a few years, "we hope the entire northern half of Afghanistan will be opium-free," Schweich said after meeting with Antonio Maria Costa, head of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime.

But Schweich conceded the situation remains bleak in southern Afghanistan, where poppy cultivation is up 10 percent to 50 percent in a half-dozen key provinces - feeding concerns that the country is swiftly becoming a narco-state.

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