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MP wants Afghan opium trade legal.


A TORY MP yesterday called for the legalisation of Afghanistan's opium trade in a bid to combat the Taliban as he prepares to visit the war-torn region.

Tobias Ellwood is flying out to Afghanistan on a five-day visit to the country, his third trip in recent months.

The Bournemouth East MP will meet President Hamid Karzai, British troops, international development organisations and representatives from Afghan ministerial departments during his trip.

Mr Ellwood said a clampdown on the illegal opium trade was allowing the Taliban to recruit disenfranchised Afghans and was preventing lasting peace in the region.

He urged Britain to consider the UN licensing ofpoppycropsto meet the world shortage of morphine and codeine, as has proved successful in Turkey.

A total of 92% of the world's opium comes from Afghanistan and just under half the world's opium is grown in Helmand Province, he said.

"Until we recognise that crop eradication destroys livelihoods and allows the Taliban to continually recruit disenfranchised Afghans, we will not be able to sustain the peace long enough for reconstruction programmes to have any impact on communities," said Mr Ellwood.

He added: "The US identified Turkey as the source of 80% of imported heroin and has threatened military and economic sanctions unless it outlawed poppy growth. This initiative had no effect.

"In 1974, Turkey sought UN assistance to establish licensed cultivation of opium. Today 600,000 people earn their living in related trade and Turkey earns 60m dollars a year from exported opium.

"If Turkey can successfully make the transition from a culture of widespread unregulated poppy cultivation to a licensed, controlled system of poppy cultivation, a similar proposal should be tested in Afghanistan."

Mr Ellwood has been invited to visit Afghanistan by General James Jones, the Supreme Allied Commander, Europe (SACEUR).

Mr Ellwood has spoken out about the lack of military equipment available for British troops operating in Helmand Province, particularly the reliance on snatch Land Rovers.

He said he is keen to ensure that the Prime Minister's promise of providing troops with whatever equipment they need is being honoured.

He has also expressed concern that military and international development commitments made by the British are not matched by NATO allies and that the mission in Afghanistan is at risk of failing.

Opinion - Page 14
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Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Oct 25, 2006
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