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Dubai police chief: 'Pay Afghan farmers to stop growing drugs'

The chief of Dubai Police says a federal drug enforcement agency and steps to prevent Afghan farmers from growing poppies would help curb illegal substances.

DUBAI // Dubai Police and Saudi Arabia's drug-enforcement agency may join forces to curb the narcotics trade by paying Afghan farmers to stop growing opium poppies.

Officials have already met Afghan authorities to discuss setting up the programme, which Dubai's police chief would like to expand to other parts of Asia if it is successful.

"We need to locate and identify narcotics farms in the Asian countries that are known sources, and find out who works in them and who operates them," Lt Gen Dahi Khalfan Tamim said yesterday.

"We then have to document these facts and set up a programme to contact the countries that are concerned to help to facilitate offering alternatives to the farmers for us to be able to end the global drug flow."

In 2009 two-thirds of the world's opium poppies were cultivated in Afghanistan, according to the United Nations, and in 2007 materials from Afghanistan were used to produce 92 per cent of the world's opiate narcotics.

To end narcotics farming, governments must be willing to negotiate with farmers by offering them an alternative that will compensate them financially, the police chief said.

"We have to set a mechanism where farmers revert from growing contraband drugs and never return to it, as well as internationally track down its financiers and traffickers."

He called on other Arab and GCC anti-drugs agencies to join then in helping Afghan authorities to limit the trade at the source. He did not say when the programme might begin full operation or what the next step might be.

"Afghanistan is a major source of narcotics, and things in the country are currently very complicated. But setting up meetings with officials and establishing associations to combat the trade is an endeavour we seek to fulfil," Gen Tamim said. "I would be honoured to be involved with such an initiative."

He said the Government was making great strides in fighting drugs within its own borders. The Ministry of Interior is setting up a federal anti-drugs administration to oversee and co-ordinate the work of drug-enforcement authorities in the seven emirates.

"The anti-narcotics department at the Ministry of Interior is currently restructuring itself to become a general administration," he said. "This will unify the efforts of anti-narcotics departments across the country."

The moves came amid an unprecedented situation in the region, Gen Tamim said. "The current security state of Arab countries, with the civil unrest and revolutions, has turned the immediate concern of security bodies in the Arab world away from combatting the drugs trade.

"Drug dealers at this period have intensified their activities because security bodies around the Arab world are dealing with other matters and are stretched."

That has meant additional opportunities to smuggle drugs and weapons through affected countries, so anti-narcotics police in the region must remain vigilant and dedicated to the cause.

He said 2011 would be the most important year for fighting the drugs trade. "Public security has become compromised and presented a breeding ground for crime and drugs."

Gen Taim was speaking at the seventh annual Hemaya anti-narcotics research conference in Dubai, organised by Dubai Police, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the Arab League Ministers of Interior Council.

amustafa@thenational.ae

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