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    DRUG COMMITTEE CHIEF BRIEFS PUTIN ON ANTI-DRUG BELTS

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    MOSCOW, February 20 (RIA Novosti) - Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Chief of the State Drug Control Committee Viktor Cherkesov on Friday.

    The US potential and funds to thwart drug production in Afghanistan are used ineffectively, said Cherkesov. Afghanistan is becoming a territory for growing opium. In 2002, opium was planted only in 28 provinces of Afghanistan, while in 2003 - already in all the 32 provinces.

    The situation in Afghanistan is alarming because it is again rated first in the heroin and raw opium production. "Afghanistan is turning into a country with a drug-based economy," said Cherkesov.

    Russia's initiative to create anti-drug belts in this country has been backed by Germany, Iran, China and the UN.

    Russia forwarded this initiative at a recent international conference in Kabul where drug production in Afghanistan was under discussion.

    Cherkesov said the problem of production and transportation of Afghanistan's raw opium and heroin was extremely topical for Russia, because opiates made 67% of the drugs consumed in Russia. According to Cherkesov, the current task is to create anti-drug belts as close to the country [Afghanistan] as possible.

    He added that the elimination of workshops, labs and opium-sown areas was a rarity in Afghanistan.

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