- The Washington Times - Monday, March 11, 2002

New intelligence data show a significant drop in the flow of heroin from Afghanistan to Europe, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Passy said in Washington yesterday.
"We have seen a significant decrease in heroin and hashish from Afghanistan to Europe since the American military campaign started in October," Mr. Passy said in an interview.
Bulgaria is strategically situated in the center of the three main Balkan drug smuggling routes from southwest Asia to Europe and as such is in a prime position to monitor the heroin trade from Afghanistan to Western Europe.
Last September, the government in Sofia announced a new mobile drug enforcement unit to search cars at random. The country also signed a customs cooperation agreement with Macedonia last year to share information on drug trafficking.
Before Oct. 12, when American and British forces began Operation Enduring Freedom, Taliban-controlled Afghanistan was the world's second-largest heroin supplier.
The Taliban banned poppy cultivation in areas it controlled in December 2000, but large amounts of opium were believed to have been stockpiled. Cultivation in southern Afghan provinces has increased in recent months.
Released last month, the State Department's latest report on international narcotics says "there were widespread reports of a resumption of cultivation in Nangarhar, Helmand, Kandahar and Oruzgan provinces" by the end of last year.
Rand Beers, assistant secretary of state for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, told reporters on Feb. 25 that the United States was pursuing a strategy in Afghanistan to persuade farmers in those regions to plow under their poppy crops.
Since September 11 in particular, the Bulgarian government has stepped up cooperation with U.S. intelligence authorities in a number of ways. It was one of the first European countries to check the list of names and organizations presented by a Treasury task force of individuals linked to the al Qaeda network.
"We found many of these individuals transited through Bulgaria, but few stayed," one senior Bulgarian officials said.
This official told UPI there is regular intelligence-sharing on the drug trade with U.S. authorities.
This information is critical for the U.S. drug war because, as Mr. Passy said, "Bulgaria is the main filter for drugs coming into Europe." Of the 2.2 tons of illegal narcotics seized by Bulgaria's Custom service between early 2001 and November of last year, 1.5 tons were heroin.
Mr. Passy this week will meet with Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, key congressional leaders, the National Security Council and the Pentagon to make the case that his country should be selected to join NATO.


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