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Joint action pledged in global drug trade battle

GOVERNMENTS worldwide are calling for strengthened collaboration to combat the growing trade in illegal drugs, officials said in Shanghai yesterday at an international conference.

"The world drug challenge remains enormous," Antonio Maria Costa, chief of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, said at a meeting marking the 100th anniversary of the start of global efforts to fight narcotics trafficking.

International efforts to curb the spread of opium and other narcotics began in Shanghai in 1909, when delegates from 13 countries met to discuss the Chinese opium epidemic.

At the epidemic's peak, almost a quarter of Chinese men were using the drug and Shanghai was the center of China's opium trade.

Yesterday, more than 100 delegates from 17 countries attended the commemorative meeting in Shanghai to address the growing global drug trade and agreed in a joint declaration to band together.

Nations should do more effort to combat the problem and prevent criminal networks from expanding their reach, Costa said.

"We must have the courage to look at a dramatic, unintended consequence of drug control: the emergence of a criminal market of staggering proportions," Costa said. "It is a costly failure that, if unattended, will undo the benefits of drug control."

A Chinese official echoed his concern.

"We should be fully aware of the increasing connections between drug crimes and other transnational organized crimes such as terrorism, money laundering and corruption," said Meng Jianzhu, director of the National Narcotics Control Commission.

New technologies are also being used to promote drug trafficking, said Hamid Ghodse of the International Narcotics Control Board.

"The Internet can be misused to become a worldwide Web for trafficking internationally in controlled substances and drugs," he said.

A century ago, opium was produced in China, India, Turkey, Persia, the Balkans and Southeast Asia.

Today, the biggest source of opium globally, accounting for 90 percent, is Afghanistan, where many people rely on it for their livelihood.

There, and in other parts of Asia, opium prices have been rising while food crop prices are falling, enticing more farmers to grow the drug, the United Nations said.

In China, the infiltration of illicit drugs from overseas sources is escalating, and the number of drug abusers is rising quickly, said Zhang Xinfeng, vice minister of the Public Security Ministry.


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