Home>News Center>World

Karzai urges Afghans to quit trading opium
Updated: 2004-12-09 21:01

KABUL, Afghanistan - President Hamid Karzai vowed Thursday to eliminate Afghanistan's exploding drug economy, calling for international aid to counter a "cancer" he said was graver than any faced by his country in a quarter-century of war.

Karzai was opening a conference on U.S.-sponsored plans to crack down on a trade already supplying most of the world's opium and heroin and which the United Nations says is turning the impoverished country into a "narco-state."

In an impassioned speech two days after his inauguration as Afghanistan's first popularly elected leader, Karzai suggested Taliban militants were funding their stubborn insurgency with drug profits and warned elders and officials from across the country to avert a new disaster.

"Opium cultivation, heroin production is more dangerous than the invasion and the attack of the Soviets on our country, it is more dangerous than the factional fighting in Afghanistan, it is more dangerous than terrorism," Karzai said. "Just as our people fought a holy war against the Soviets, so we will wage jihad against poppies."

Cultivation of opium poppies has skyrocketed since a U.S. bombing campaign drove the Taliban from power three years ago, fueling concern that billions spent on the effort to stabilize and reconstruct the country could prove in vain.

Karzai, armed with a popular mandate from a landmark Oct. 9 presidential election, has said that countering narcotics will be the top priority during his five-year term. Britain and the United States are drafting plans to destroy crops, smash laboratories and arrest top smugglers.

But there is also concern that a heavy-handed approach could backfire, and Karzai has strongly rejected U.S. proposals for a Colombia-style crop dusting campaign to destroy poppy fields. Donors are also supplying millions of dollars to help farmers switch to legal crops.

Karzai is expected to announce the establishment of a new ministry to lead the anti-narcotics drive, but gave no details Thursday of his plans. He focused instead on persuading Afghans that producing drugs was a stain on their nation.

His audience listened politely as he claimed that virtually all profits from drugs ended up in Western banks and in the pockets of the Taliban "enemies" who helped destroy Afghanistan's once-famed vineyards and orchards.

But he drew loud applause and shouts of agreement when he urged Afghans to recover their dignity by ridding the country of a trade that he said could return it to the status of international pariah.

"Let's make a promise today: That whether there will be any support from the international community or not, we will destroy the poppy fields," he said to cheers. "We are facing another problem which is like cancer. With other diseases there is a cure, but treatment of cancer is not easy."

  Today's Top News     Top World News

Solana: EU may lift arms ban on China early next year



Policy makers weigh milder 2005 targets



'Gold collar' class expands in China



US GIs hit Rumsfeld with hard questions



Plan in pipeline for population problems



Nike apologises for footwear ad in China


  Iraqis may extend election amid violence
  Oil prices rise for second day in a row
  Ecuador inmates hold 180 visitors hostage
  Kofi Annan warns members must reform UN
  Snow to stay on with Bush, Principi exits
  Karzai urges Afghans to quit trading opium
  Go to Another Section  
  Story Tools  
  Related Stories  
Afghan opium cultivation reaches record high - UN
Up in smoke
Faye Wong's Song banned over 'opium'
UN: Afghan opium production spreading like cancer
Pakistan drug force seizes huge Afghan opium haul
Pakistan seizes 1.2 tonnes of opium from Afghanistan
Moscow raid gas said opium derivative
  News Talk  
  Are the Republicans exploiting the memory of 9/11?