22 Oct 2010 10:42

Russia, U.S. agree on anti-drug cooperation

WASHINGTON. Oct 22 (Interfax) - Russia and the United States signed an agreement on Thursday to work together to counter illegal drug trafficking, an Interfax correspondent reported from Washington.

Cooperation in tackling drug trafficking is one of the important components of the U.S.-Russian "reset" agreed between Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, Gil Kerlikowske, told reporters.

This is a global threat and we must fight it together, he added.

The agreement is the final document of the U.S.-Russian working group for drug-related problems, including drug trafficking, drug addiction treatment, and exchange of information on Afghanistan, director of Russia's Federal Drug Control Service, Viktor Ivanov, said.

One of the provisions of the signed agreement is cooperation on destroying covert Afghan laboratories and catching drug dealers.

"Our contacts are much closer than just meetings at official level," Ivanov said.

"The permanent 'hotline' between the co-chairmen allows to promptly work out a consolidated position on various aspects of the common problem," he said.

"The commission has set up three working groups," the Russian official said.

"One is countering drugs, the second is aimed at improving legislation and court procedures and the third is organizing exchange of experience in treating and rehabilitating drug addicts," he said.

"We worked to devise an anti-drug strategy which largely reflected the experience we learnt in the U.S. on how to organize the work, treatment and rehabilitation," Ivanov said.

He added: Russia provides the U.S. with the latest information regarding Afghan drug trafficking and production.

"Federal Drug Control Service representatives are currently working in Kabul," Ivanov said.

The main disagreement between Russia and the U.S. concerning the Afghan drug trade is over whether to destroy or preserve opium crop.

The U.S. is reluctant to destroy crops and claims that poppy cultivation is the only opportunity for Afghan farmers to earn a living and they should be allowed to grow fruits as an alternative to poppy.

Afghans must decide themselves, Kerlikowske said.

For us reducing crops and getting Afghans to start growing other crops is very important, he continued.

Opium crops have reduced, and we are focusing on the search for laboratories, he added.