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Tue 24 Jun 2008 09:50 AM

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Iran struggles in Afghan drug fight

Iran seized 'less than half' of drugs entering from Afghanistan in 2007, police commander says.

Iran seized less than half of the 2,500 tonnes of drugs that entered the country from its eastern neighbour Afghanistan in 2007, a top police commander said on Monday.

"Around 900 tonnes of drugs out of the 2,500 tonnes of drugs that entered the country from Afghanistan were seized in 2007," Iran's police chief and anti-drug trafficking head Esmaeel Ahmadi Moghadam told reporters.

Iran lies on a major transit route for smuggling illegal drugs from Afghanistan towards European markets.

It has lost hundreds of police killed in clashes with drug smugglers in recent years and has repeatedly lamented a lack of funding and support from the West to combat the traffickers.

The proportion of the total volume of Afghan drugs transiting through Iran fell to 31 percent in 2007 from 42 percent in 2006, Ahmadi Moghadam said, adding that the volume itself was unchanged due to a major rise in Afghan production.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime has said that Afghanistan's opium production increased from 6,100 tonnes in 2006 to 8,200 tonnes in 2007, accounting for 93 percent of global production.

Around a third of the drugs from Afghanistan that are not seized by Iranian police are consumed in Iran itself, creating a serious domestic drug abuse problem.

Opium use has long been a problem in Iran but crack and heroin consumption is on the up with the latter available at $3.5 dollars per gram, according to the United Nations.

"According to our latest analysis, there are 1.16 million drug addicts in Iran and around 700,000 occasional users," said Ahmadi Moghadam.