Afghanistan hosts drugs forum

Afghanistan is hosting a two day forum on its illegal drug industry which last year reportedly accounted for 90 percent of heroin consumed in Europe.

UN officials warned the drugs trade could be funding international terrorism as well as undermining the Afghan state. Nearly 7 percent of the population is now said to work in the opium trade, earning as much as Afghanistan receives in foreign aid.

The Afghan government is seeking $300 million in donations to fund a campaign aimed at reducing opium production by 70 percent within four years. Britain has already contributed about $128 million over three years to the campaign and have helped to organise the conference.

Mirwais Yasini, director-general of Afghanistan's counter-narcotics department, said: "This is not an issue one country can do on its own. We would like the whole international community to help us."

US officials emphasise tougher law enforcement and the eradication of opium fields while British diplomats prefer a carrot-and-stick approach encouraging farmers to grow other crops. The Afghan government appears to be adopting the US model and promises a new war on drugs this year.

The Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Antonio Maria Costa, has warned that the opium trade is helping to fund terrorism.

There was, he said, "mounting evidence of drug money being used to finance criminal activities, including terrorism...If we don't start translating counter-narcotics commitment into lower levels of production, we run the risk of [an] opium economy undermining all that has been achieved in creating a democratic new Afghanistan."