NATO mulls Afghan poppy legalization

March 27, 2007 at 9:49 AM

KABUL, Afghanistan, March 27 (UPI) -- Key NATO members are mulling the legalization of Afghanistan's opium poppy industry, according to a German news magazine.

Government officials in Germany, France, Rome and "senior executives" within NATO are currently discussing such a move, Der Spiegel writes in its latest issue.

Instead of selling the poppies to drug lords who make opium and heroin from the raw material, the farmers under the plan would sell them for the same price to an official institution that would relay the poppies to the international pharmaceutical industry, the magazine said.

"With the current strategies, we haven't managed to get the drug business under control," Der Spiegel quotes an unnamed senior NATO general as saying.

Afghanistan produces close to 90 percent of the world's opium, the raw material from which heroin is made. Afghanistan's farmers depend on the income from the poppy production, but the drug business also finances the Taliban in its war against the West.

Recent efforts that included burning down the poppy fields -- a U.S. initiative -- have failed to bring about change.

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