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Russia raises Afghanistan drugs issue with EU

HELSINKI, October 30 (RIA Novosti) - Russia voiced its concern over the unabated rise in drug trafficking from Afghanistan at a meeting with EU officials Monday, a presidential aide said.

Huge volumes of illegal drugs arrive in Russia each year from Afghanistan, the world's largest producer of heroin and opium, most of which is smuggled through Russia's ex-Soviet neighbor Tajikistan.

Viktor Ivanov, speaking after a session of the Russia-European Union Permanent Partnership Council for justice and home affairs, said that in Afghanistan poppy farming areas now covered 120,000 hectares, and the annual harvest totaled almost 5,000 metric tons.

"We are very concerned over this issue. The issue was at the center of the talks," Ivanov said.

Since the collapse of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in 2001, the international community has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on efforts to destroy poppy crops, close drug labs, pay subsidies to impoverished farmers and encourage them to cultivate alternate crops.

The presidential aide said the problem had social and economic roots, which have been exacerbated by weak government and inefficient law enforcement in Afghanistan.

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