Iranian and European Union officials met in Brussels Wednesday to discuss ways and exchange suggestions to improve and strengthen joint efforts to combat the scourge of drug trafficking, IRNA reported.
"It was an opportunity to exchange views, information on a host of issues between Iran and the EU related to the question of drug abuse and drug trafficking and drug control," Bozorgmehr Ziaran told IRNA in an interview.
Ziaran, director general for international economic and specialized affairs in Iran's Foreign Ministry, who led the Iranian delegation, noted that it was the fourth session of the EU-Iran experts' meeting on combating drugs.
Officials from Iran's Drug Control Headquarters, including Mohammad Ali Hashmei, director general of international relations office and the presidential advisor, also participated in the meeting. The two sides thoroughly reviewed the latest developments in Afghanistan, in particular the increase in cultivation of opium in some urban areas there.
"This is alarming. This would undermine the authority of the government of President Karzai. Drugs also finance terrorism and creates many social, economic and political problems in transit countries as well as in countries of destination where the drugs are consumed," warned Ziaran.
In the light of these developments, he said, there was a common understanding that 'we need to strengthen and promote our cooperation and to look into the matter with a view to provide necessary assistance to Iran to combat drug trafficking and also to help the Afghans'.
"The EU appreciated greatly the efforts that Iran has exerted so far in the fight against drug trafficking and expressed its readiness to assist Iran to continue its fight against drug trafficking," he said.
The EU delegation that included officials from the Council, Commission, member states and Europol, was led by the current EU President Italy.
Iran also briefed the EU side about its assistance to Afghanistan in combating drugs, where 80 percent of worldwide opium is cultivated. Afghan law enforcement officers are being trained in a joint Iran-UK program. 27 Afghan officers have been trained so far and 500 more are to receive training.
Iran is also constructing over 20 border posts near Afghanistan to curb drug smuggling. Ten of these border posts are almost ready. The Brussels meeting also discussed the possibility of opening an EU drug liaison office in Iran, exchange of intelligence on drug smuggling, and the need to unify policies to combat the menace.
Iran suggested the establishment of an EU-Iran working group to develop concrete measures and coordinate efforts to combat drug trafficking.
The EU side assured that they will look into this proposal seriously.
Hojjatollah Besharat, senior expert in Iran's Drug Control Headquarters, said the EU side was eager to learn about the new developments in the Islamic Republic's strategy on drugs. "The new strategy is to reduce the number of drug users in Iran's society. We are also focusing on the key role of NGO's in tackling drug problems," Besharat told IRNA.
He explained that as Iran in located in the vicinity of Afghanistan the spill over of drug smuggling has resulted in increasing the number of drug users.
Quoting available statistics, he put the number of drug users in Iran at two million.
"Today's session was very useful in moving the EU-Iran cooperation in the right direction," stressed Besharat.
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