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U.S. studies opium options

Monday, November 26, 2001

WASHINGTON -- U.S. officials are exploring ways to prevent a surge in opium cultivation in Afghanistan, once the world's leading producer, now that the Taliban's control is crumbling.

The challenge is persuading the factions likely to govern to fight opium production and trafficking, when they in the past had shown little inclination to do that.

U.S. counternarcotics officials want to make drug-fighting a condition for receiving international humanitarian aid. They expect the assistance will include programs to encourage Afghan farmers to give up opium, the raw material for heroin, for wheat and other legal crops.

U.S. anti-drug agencies have met to develop a counterdrug plan. With efforts under way to form a new multiethnic government in Afghanistan, the opium issue has attracted the attention of leading Bush administration officials.

U.S. policy-makers had limited interest in it before the Sept. 11 attacks. Afghan opium is sold mostly in Europe and Asia.

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