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    RUSSIA READY TO HELP IN COMBATING AFGHAN DRUG TRAFFICKING, SAYS RUSSIAN DEFENCE MINISTER

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    NORFOLK (USA), April 6, 2004. (RIA Novosti) -- Russia is ready to render technical assistance and give consultations to help in combating the Afghan drug trafficking, Russian Defence minister Sergei Ivanov told journalists, who attended the international conference "The Role of the Military in Anti-Terrorism Fight" held under the aegis of the Russia-NATO Council.

    "Russia more than once expressed the hope that peacekeepers and the forces of the anti-terrorist coalition in Afghanistan will begin fighting drug trafficking. And we noted with satisfaction that the first anti-terrorism operation was held recently in Afghanistan, in the course of which 1.5 metric tons of opium were confiscated," the minister pointed out.

    "The work in this direction will be difficult and painstaking but very important for future generations," Sergei Ivanov believes.

    According to him, "the Tajik-Afghani border, where Russian border-guards are on a military service, has become the place where the struggle against drug traffickers does not stop even for a minute." The minister said that since January 8, 2004 five Afghan armed drug traffickers were killed when they attempted to cross the border.

    "Two bags with heroin weighing about 35 kilograms, 15 kilograms of marijuana, a sub-machine gun with three magazines, two radio stations made abroad and means for crossing the river Payndzh, bordering on Afghanistan and Tajikistan, were discovered at the scene," Mr. Ivanov pointed out.

    This is not an isolated instance, the minister stressed. According to the UN data, in 2003 about 3,600 metric tons of opium were gathered in Afghanistan, which makes up three-fourths of the illegal production volume throughout the world.

    "When processed, this volume amounts to more than 300 tons of heroin," Mr. Ivanov emphasized.

    According to him, the annual Afghan drug trafficking makes up $30 billion, and 1.5 million people participate in it.

    "Only naive people fail to understand that a considerable part of drug money is spent to finance extremist and terrorist organisations," Sergei Ivanov concluded.

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