NATO Wednesday rejected Russian calls for it to eradicate opium poppy fields in Afghanistan, saying the best way for Moscow to help control the drug would be to give more assistance against the insurgency.
Russia's anti-drugs czar, Victor Ivanov, met NATO ambassadors in Brussels and proposed that NATO troops be given a U.N. mandate and an obligation to eradicate Afghan opium crops, which were killing 30,000 Russians a year.
(Afghan opium kills 100,000 people every year worldwide" - Wikipedia)
But NATO spokesman James Appathurai said the drug problem had to be handled carefully to avoid alienating local people. He said the alliance was continuing efforts to target drug lords and drug labs, but added at a news briefing:
"We cannot be in a situation where we remove the only source of income of people who live in the second poorest country in the world without being able to provide them with an alternative."
Afghanistan is the world's biggest producer of poppies used to make opium, the key ingredient in the production of heroin.
Appathurai said NATO understood Russian concerns, given its estimated 200,000 heroin and morphine addicts and the tens of thousands dying each year.
Wed Mar 24, 2010