VIENNA, Austria – A U.N. drug body warned Thursday that Iraq is emerging as a transit point for drugs, with traffickers working with insurgents and terrorists, and called on the international community to tackle the problem before it's too late.
Drug traffickers from Afghanistan have begun crossing Iraq to get to Jordan (search), the exit point for Asia and Europe, said Hamid Ghodse, the president of the International Narcotics Control Board (search). Afghanistan is the world's main source of opium and its derivative heroin (search).
Ghodse said traffickers cooperate with terrorists and insurgents, thereby worsening the situation in Iraq. He urged the international community and Iraqi leaders to act before the trafficking route becomes entrenched. All efforts to support Iraq must give due focus to the drug problem, he said.
"You cannot have peace, security and development without attending to drug control," he said.
The board had only anecdotal evidence of the new drug trafficking route, Ghodse said, adding that it's the board's duty to warn the world of emerging problems.
"The pattern [in Iraq] is similar to what we have seen in other post-conflict situations," he said. "Whether it is due to war or disaster, weakening of border controls and security infrastructure make countries into convenient logistic and transit points, not only for international terrorists and militants but also for drug traffickers."
The board had no figures or estimates of the quantity of drugs passing through Iraq, but noted that last month, officials seized 3 million pills of Captagon — an amphetamine-like medication — on the Iraqi-Jordanian border. Significant quantities of cannabis resin and chemicals needed to process opium into heroin also have been seized, the board said.
"There is enough evidence of a problem there that we are alarmed," Ghodse told reporters.
Though the board did not know much about the drug situation in Iraq before the war, the country then was "not one of the hottest spots," Ghodse said.
He lauded Iraq for cooperating with the board, and for trying to battle the drug trafficking problem. 'Political will is there, but they need assistance," Ghodse said.
Koli Kouame, the board's secretary, said international organizations and donor countries could help Iraq battle drug trafficking problem by supporting programs that strengthen border controls and law enforcement.
The board said in March that the drug trafficking problem was so severe in Afghanistan that the country's existence was threatened. Ghodse said there have been some "encouraging signs," since then, but he urged continued efforts to curb opium cultivation.
The Vienna-based board is an independent body that monitors implementation of U.N. drug conventions.