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Hungary to become a key transit country of heroin trade

With a sharp rise in Afghan heroin production, Hungary has become a popular transit country for drug traffickers supplying the western European market, national daily Népszabadság said on Thursday.

Over the past year Afghanistan's heroin production has grown by almost half to account for 90% of the global output, and eclipses the Golden Triangle, the traditional south-east Asian leader in opium production. The trend has triggered dramatic shifts in transit routes, posing a tough challenge to the authorities of the Central and Eastern European countries. According to the UN International Narcotics Control Board, 60% of Afghan heroin is supplied to European illegal markets.

US General Karl Eikenberry, commander of the Combined Forces stationed in Afghanistan, told Népszabadság in Budapest that opium and heroin production is one of the key unresolved issues of the Afghan problem. The extreme religious and terrorist groups of the country, including al-Qaeda groups, use revenues from the illegal drug trade - estimated to make up nearly $3 billion a year - to finance arms purchases. A marked decline in heroin production would help restore stability in the country.

The paper learned from well-informed Hungarian sources that all the three "heroin routes" leading from Afghanistan to western Europe cross Hungary. Drug shipments are organized by Albanian, Turkish, Kurdish and Hungarian gangs, mostly the same involved in human smuggling. The Hungarian authorities stepped up efforts to clamp down on drug trafficking, which is considered a national security priority. The biggest haul of the past few years was a 92-kg consignment of 50% purity heroin, delivered from Turkey to the Czech Republic in June 2005. (