KABUL, June 13: President Hamid Karzai appealed on Tuesday to Afghanistan’s neighbours for help in ridding the country of the “evil” of opium production which is trafficked in networks spreading across the region.

Karzai made the call in a message delivered to a one-day meeting of officials from the region, including Iran and Pakistan.

Afghanistan wanted better cooperation with its neighbours and the international community against drugs, the president said.

“We have always said that Afghanistan wanted to release itself from this evil plant. Help us in this struggle and take our hand,” he said.

Afghanistan produces about 90 per cent of the opium consumed in Europe, where much of it is made into heroin. The drug is said to trafficked mostly through Pakistan and Iran, but also through the Central Asian states to the north.

Afghanistan’s counter-narcotics minister Habibullah Qaderi said most of the chemicals used to turn opium into heroin came to Afghanistan from other countries.

And while opium and heroin were produced in Afghanistan, “the drug trafficking networks are spreading it throughout the region and other parts of the world,” he said.

“It’s a fact that the narcotics drug problem is so huge and complicated that one nation can’t eliminate it alone,” Qaderi told the conference. The region was also becoming a market for the drugs, with about 10 million users in the region and one million in Afghanistan alone.

Some of Afghanistan’s neighbours have expressed frustration with the country’s drug output. Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rakhmonov said in May farmers had not been given enough aid to move away from the crop.

Afghanistan has international help, chiefly from the United States, in trying to rid itself of opium by destroying poppy fields and encouraging farmers to grow other, less lucrative crops.

The police force has this year stepped up eradication efforts, sending groups of officers to opium-producing areas to plough up poppy fields with tractors.

This has sparked some clashes with angry farmers especially when harvest is nearing.

The UN Office on Drugs and Crime and the Afghan government said in a report released in March that opium production was likely to jump this year with farmers not believing a ban on the crop would be enforced.—AFP