Iran grapples with drug problem

Al Jazeera English
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Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, the Iranian president, has proposed a budget estimated at $368bn for 2011, with a promise that spending will focus on agriculture, education and research.

It is unclear how much of this budget will go on tackling the nation's rising drug problem, though opium continues to pour into the country from neighbouring Afghanistan.

In the last 10 months, Al Jazeera correspondent Alireza Ronaghi reports that police have seized over 400 tonnes of drugs and have lost dozens of police officers in the attempt to eradicate drug abuse in the Iranian capital, Tehran.

Now some public security officials are saying the effort to chase and arrest drug dealers and users is almost pointless in the face of the sheer quantity of narcotics brought into the capital city every day.

At a conference on drug control in Tehran this week, Brigadier-General Hamidreza Hosseinabadi, head of Iran's anti-drug task force, criticised international organisations and Western powers for their lack of co-operation.

"Those who chase terrorists in Afghanistan, they have left drug traffickers free.

"I think they even guide traffickers. They allow a fifty percent increase of drug production in Afghanistan's Helmand province, where the head quarters of British forces is located. What does that mean?" Hosseinabadi asked.

Antonino De Leo, the representative of UN office on Drugs and Crime in Iran, says he is eager to help but his hands are tied.

"Our technical assistance programme ... is funded by extra budgetary resources," he told Al Jazeera.

"So UNODC does not have funding at its disposal to purchase any equipment, carry out any training or even purchase drug sniffing dogs.

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