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Ten years more to eradicate poppy cultivation, says Karzai

IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency

London, Jan 31, IRNA
Afghanistan Drugs-Karzai
The eradication of Afghanistan's poppy fields would be a much longer process than first thought, according to Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Speaking ahead of an international conference in London on Afghanistan, Karzai admitted that he had mistakenly believed that poppy cultivation might have been wiped out by now.

Afghans faced a "10 to 15 year" battle because many people relied on the drugs trade for their livelihood, he told BBC Radio Four's flagship 'Today' programme Tuesday.

Britain, as the lead nation in combating the country's drugs trade, previously suggested that the program could take up to a decade following the US-led war in 2001 to overthrow the Taliban regime.

Karzai, who was opening the two-day London conference with Prime Minister Tony Blair Tuesday, said that the drugs trade in Afghanistan was inextricably linked with terrorism.

"Terrorists and drug money go hand in hand. This money generated by poppies supports terrorism. They are now intimidating farmers, forcing them to grow poppies," he said.

Karzai suggested there was a "tough fight" to overcome drugs cultivation and warned that a 3,300-strong British military taskforce being deployed to the Helmand province in southern Afghanistan could come into conflict with terrorists based there.

Poppy cultivation in the region was fuelling the terrorists, who were increasingly turning to "soft targets" such as schools and clergy, he said.

Ministers and officials from some 60 countries are attending the Afghanistan conference, which is set to map the next 5-year phase in rebuilding the country in succession to the 2001 Bonn agreement.

The Afghan government is expected to present its strategy on development, security, good governance and the drugs trade to be signed during the two-day conference.

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