War on drugs must be Afghan top priority
Vienna - UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Thursday urged Afghanistan to make fighting drug trafficking a priority as opium harvests soar in the world's top producer. Ban also urged the world to help in the effort.
"Above all, the Afghan government must prioritise the issue of narcotics," he said in his opening address in Vienna of the "Paris Pact" initiative to fight drug trafficking in Afghanistan.
"Law enforcement agencies [in Afghanistan] must work harder on eradicating crops, eliminating laboratories, keeping precursors from entering the country, and inhibiting drug trafficking," he urged.
Afghanistan grows about 90% of the world's opium and production of the drug soared last year by 61%, according to the UN drugs and crime office (UNODC). Drug production now makes up about 15% of Afghanistan's gross domestic product.
Ban also warned that "reducing supply is only half the story. There can be no real success without reducing the demand".
And he urged the international community to help: "We must stand with Afghanistan in this fight."
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, the co-chair of the event, said that "nothing would be worse than inaction".
"We need institutions that are efficient, transparent and democratic," he added, pledging France's co-operation.
The Paris Pact was set up in 2003 to co-ordinate efforts to fight opium and heroin trafficking from Afghanistan, with 56 states and a dozen international organisations signed up.
On Thursday, the participants were expected to adopt a declaration vowing to fight opium trade in Afghanistan as well as related problems like corruption and money-laundering.
Juppe and fellow co-chair Russian Foreigh Minister Sergei Lavrov were also set to meet on the sidelines of the event to discuss a French proposal to set up aid corridors into Syria amid a bloody crackdown on anti-regime protestors.
Russia stands as one of Syrian President Bashar Assad's last major friends, vetoing with China this month a Security Council resolution condemning the regime for the violence, despite a barrage of criticism.