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Daily Archives: April 15, 2009

Uzbekistan burns half tonne of Afghan heroin

Police in Uzbekistan burned more than one and half tonnes of seized Afghan narcotics in front of UN officials yesterday, including 501 kilos of heroin, at a factory outside the capital Tashkent.
Security officials piled the narcotics, which were seized in 2008, into a massive oven in a Soviet-era metal smelting plant before setting them ablaze, an AFP correspondent reported.
Mountainous Uzbekistan is increasingly becoming a transit country for drugs coming from Afghanistan and Tajikistan, James Callahan, a regional representative of the UN Office for Drugs and Crime (UNODC) told reporters.
Since the US-led invasion in 2001, Afghanistan has become the world's leading heroin producer, placing an increasing burden on law enforcement officers in its Central Asian neighbours.
"The problem of being a transit country… is that it increases the incidence of drug abuse among Uzbek citizens as well as the problem of HIV, which is connected to injected drug use," Callahan said.
Nonetheless, the UNODC is pleased with the efforts of Uzbek law enforcement bodies to fight against illegal drug trafficking, he said.
Uzbek security service officials said 3.5 tonnes of narcotics, including almost 1.5 tonnes of heroin, were seized in 2008.
Since 1994 Uzbekistan has publicly destroyed 42 tonnes of drugs, according to officials.

US troops may stay longer in Mosul

US troops could stay in violence-wracked Mosul beyond a June 30 deadline for withdrawing from Iraqi cities if Baghdad asks them to, the commander of US forces in the northern province said yesterday.
The US military and their Iraqi counterparts are conducting an assessment to determine what to do, said Colonel Gary Volesky, commander of the 1st Cavalry Division's 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team, in a video teleconference from Iraq.
"If the Iraqi government wants us to stay, we will stay," Volesky told reporters in a teleconference.
Mosul, an important regional center in northern Iraq with a mixed population of Kurds, Sunnis and Christians, has remained in the grips of insurgent violence even as unrest has subsided elsewhere in Iraq over the past year.
Five US troops and three Iraqi security force members were killed Friday in the suicide truck bombing of a Mosul police compound, the deadliest attack against US forces in over a year.
Under an agreement reached with the Iraqi government in November, US combat forces are supposed to withdraw from Iraqi cities by June 30, and from the whole country by 2011.
"We are conducting an assessment right now with our Iraqi counterparts to determine what the way ahead is for the security in Mosul," Volesky said. "Based on that assessment a decision will be made on what we will do on 30th of June."
The US military regards Mosul as the last bastion of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, following its rout from Baghdad and western Iraq in 2007.
The Iraqi army launched a major offensive in Mosul in May 2008 but insurgent attacks have continued to take a toll.
General Raymond Odierno, the commander of US forces in Iraq, signaled over the weekend that the US military will seek flexibility in meeting deadlines for pulling troops out of the cities.
"If we believe that we'll need troops to maintain presence in some of the cities, we'll recommend that, but ultimately it's the decision of Prime Minister (Nuri al-) Maliki," Odierno said in an interview with CNN on Sunday.
Iraqi security forces, he said, "are proving every day that they are becoming more competent, so the decision will be made as how much of US forces are needed in order to continue to support them to keep the stability that we're starting to see here in Iraq."
But Odierno insisted that US forces will be out of Iraq by the end of 2011.