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    RUSSIA TO WORK CLOSELY WITH CENTRAL ASIA IN FIGHT AGAINST DRUGS

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    MOSCOW, February 20, 2004 (RIA Novosti correspondent) - Russia intends to more closely collaborate with Central Asian states to deal with drug trafficking from Afghanistan, said Victor Cherkesov, the head of the State Narcotics Control, at a meeting with President Putin.

    He noted that the northern routes drug traffickers take from Afghanistan pass through Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, and that Russia intends to work more closely with those states to close the channels. "We regularly exchange information and we carry out joint operations," said Mr. Cherkesov.

    In response to a question from Mr. Putin about the committee's progress last year, Mr. Cherkesov noted that in the past year the basic task, the formation of a department and attracting highly skilled specialists to it, was accomplished. "It was important not to miss a moment of activating the drug crime," he said.

    According to Mr. Cherkesov, there were some successes in the fight against the laundering of drug money. In the past year, 10 criminal cases were opened.

    Mr. Cherkesov said among the problems of facing the State Narcotics Control were the need to strengthen the program of anti-drug propaganda and strengthen drug treatment facilities.

    "We have the projects, which we will present to government for the introduction into the federal program," Mr. Cherkesov said.

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