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Afghan opium value down, U.N. report says

KABUL, Afghanistan, Dec. 17 (UPI) -- The potential export value of Afghanistan's opium dropped 18 percent in 2009, the U.N. anti-drug unit said Thursday.

The Afghanistan Opium Survey 2009 by the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime attributed the decline to less opium cultivation, lower production, falling prices and a relatively higher gross domestic product, the agency said in a release.

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However, the Office on Drugs and Crime said more progress depends on rooting out corruption in the country.

"Military and market forces are reducing the impact of opium on Afghanistan's economy," the office's executive director, Antonio Maria Costa. said.

He stressed the need to eliminate corruption to build upon the progress.

"I urge President (Hamid) Karzai to make integrity as high a priority as security -- you can't have one without the other," Costa said.

The 2009 study found lower revenues and excess production hampered supply, with cultivation falling 22 percent and production dropping by 10 percent. The number of people involved in opium cultivation also decreased by a third to 1.6 million, the study indicated.

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