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Afghanistan: Drugs

Volume 458: debated on Monday 12 March 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what support the UK gives the Government of Afghanistan in identifying areas for possible poppy crop eradication as referred to in the answer to the question tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Boston and Skegness (Mark Simmonds) of 27 February 2006, Official Report, column 52W, on Afghanistan; and what criteria are used to determine the suitability of areas for eradication efforts. (127068)

The UK helps the Afghan Government co-ordinate eradication to ensure it is targeted in areas with access to alternative legal livelihoods, as set out in the National Drug Control Strategy. Areas identified for eradication are determined by a set of criteria which take into account a wide range of factors. These include: distance to markets, water availability, agricultural diversity, population density, extension of government, access to non-farm income and credit, and activities of development programmes.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what support (a) the Government and (b) British forces in Afghanistan are providing to opium crop eradication activities in Afghanistan in 2007. (127072)

The main focus of UK support to the Afghan eradication effort is in identifying poppy fields for destruction. We also provide some financial and logistical support. UK military forces deployed under the International Security Assistance Force contribute to the broader counter-narcotics effort by providing the secure environment in which the rule of law can be applied, reconstruction can take place and legal rural livelihoods can be developed. They are not there to take direct action against the drugs trade and do not eradicate.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether the UK has held discussions with the Government of Iran on counter-narcotic issues in Afghanistan. (127075)

Our embassy in Tehran liaises with the Iranian authorities on counter-narcotics issues, including those relating to Afghanistan. We also maintain contacts with the Iranians on counter-narcotics issues in London and Kabul.

Ministers and officials from the UK and Iran have also attended many multilateral meetings at which Afghan counter-narcotics issues have been discussed, such as the good neighbourly relations declaration ministerial in June 2006.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Cotswold of 27 February 2007, Official Report, columns 1192-3W, on Afghanistan: opium, what reasons were given by the Afghan Government for their decision not to use ground-based spraying on opium poppy crops in 2007; and if she will make a statement. (127074)

The Afghan Government made their decision not to conduct ground-based spraying this year following wide consultation and internal discussion, but chose not to make their reasons public. The Afghan Government have expressed their determination to tackle opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan through a variety of means, including by carrying out robust manual and mechanical targeted eradication this year, as set out in the national drug control strategy. If this proves ineffective ground-based spraying will be on the list of options for next year.