Kabul, Afghanistan (BBN)– A top United Nations official has stressed the need for a broad strategy and greater international cooperation to boost counter-narcotics and crime prevention efforts in Afghanistan.

“To tackle the problem of Afghan opium and insecurity, we need to develop a comprehensive strategy and this strategy should be international,” Yury Fedotov, Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), told a news conference in Kabul on Saturday.

Mr. Fedotov said Afghanistan’s efforts to increase security and reduce opium cultivation are to be “commended and expanded.” At the same time, he said the international community must continue to encourage the Government to take steps to increase security to the extent to which Afghanistan can extend the rule of law and can increase the number of poppy-free provinces.

Afghan opium production has decreased by almost 50 per cent this year, according to the 2010 Afghan Opium Survey released in September by UNODC, which said the sharp drop was mainly due to a plant infection that took a heavy toll on the major poppy-growing provinces of Helmand and Kandahar.

The Survey found that all 20 poppy-free provinces remained so in 2010 and four other provinces – Kunar, Laghman, Zabul and Herat – were almost poppy-free. It also warned that rising prices on the global market may induce farmers to cultivate more of the lucrative crop.

Just as important is reducing consumer demand, which he said must continue to be an important part of any comprehensive strategy.

Addressing Afghanistan”s opium problems in conjunction with other related problems of organized crime and corruption and insecurity will help the entire region, Mr. Fedotov added.

BBN/SI/AD-28Nov10-11:35 am (BST)