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Iran has 1.2 million hooked drug addicts: official

Iran has 1.2 million hard addicts to assorted narcotics, while 800,000 others use drugs for pastime, a senior welfare official said in Tehran on Saturday, IRNA reported.

The announcement came as President Mohammad Khatami said Iran needs more than lip-service, paid by Europe and the rest of the world for its costly fight against drug trafficking and declared Tehran's readiness for cooperation with all countries to confront the menace.

"According to official statistics, two million people consume narcotics in the (65-million) country, who account for three percent of the country's population," head of State Welfare Organization, Mohammad Reza Rah-Chamani, said.

Opium has the top consumption rate, with heroin coming second, the official said, adding there was urgent need to contain heroin consumption, which is mostly carried out through injection, in the face of rising threats of AIDS and hepatitis spread through shared needles.

Rah-Chamani warned against addiction to chemical and industrial drugs, such as amphetamines, which are illegally being introduced to the country's addicts.

"There is need for caution since their dangers are well above those of natural (narcotic) components," he added.

To wipe out the menace, there is need to stem both the roots of demand and supply of narcotics through enlightening the public about the habit's dangers.

"This is because if narcotics are easily accessible in the absence of using force to check the malady, the ugly aura of narcotics is broken and demand for it rises," Rah-Chamani added.

In the last Iranian year, which ended March 21, 2003, 70,000 addicts were rehabilitated at the country's drugs treatment centers, he added.

On Saturday, the Iranian president summed up the country's unsung sacrifices, including 'more than 3,400 martyrs and 10,000 disabled in the fight against trafficking and transit of narcotics'.

Iran, Khatami said, has spent close to one billion (US) dollars in order to rehabilitate its eastern borders, which stretch on mostly barren and mountainous areas, with Pakistan and Afghanistan -- the world's largest drugs producer.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran is making sacrifices to check the transit of narcotics to Europe and the rest of the world, but it believes that paying only lip-service will not unravel the tangles.

"There is need for global resolution to fight this dangerous phenomenon which has a massive economic backing," he told staff of a drug control office here.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran is in need of and ready for cooperation of all the world countries to seriously fight the production and smuggling of narcotics at an international scope," Khatami added.

He cited the impacts of the 'ominous drugs blight" graver than those of terrorism, war and domination' and said, "Doubtless, drugs are among the most ominous phenomena of our time, which need enormous sum to fight against."

Iran straddles major international transit routes of drugs from Afghanistan and Pakistan, better known as the 'Golden Crescent', on their way to lucrative markets in Europe, the Persian Gulf and Central Asia.

The campaign has won plaudits from the international community, but the Islamic Republic has regularly complained that it needed more than conciliatory messages in a fight which it battles almost single handedly.

According to official estimates, Iran's anti-drug campaign costs the country US dlrs 800 million each year.

Iran accounts for 80 percent of the opium and 90 percent of the morphine intercepted worldwide, according to the International Narcotics Control Board.

... Payvand News - 6/29/03 ... --

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