Sarkozy urges UN anti-drug fund paid for by asset seizures

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France's President Nicolas Sarkozy suggested Monday that a global fund be set up under United Nations control to combat drug-trafficking using money seized from convicted narcotics barons.

"This fund would have one purpose: to reinforce the capacity of the most vulnerable states and those most hit by drug-trafficking," he told the opening session of at G8 ministerial-level conference on narcotics smuggling.

"Fighting traffickers is not only locking people up and seizing drugs. It is attacking the first cause of the traffic -- money. We must deprive the narco-traffickers of the profits from their crime," he said.

"We must punish the criminals, not just with lengthy prison terms, but also by confiscating their assets," he told an audience of interior and justice ministers from G8 world powers and countries plagued by the drug trade.

Sarkozy also urged members to improve the collection and exchange of information between countries, saying: "Too often inadequate cooperation leads to failure."

The number of cocaine users in Europe is now around five million, double the level of a decade ago, he said.

According to French experts, nearly half of the 700 tonnes of cocaine produced each year in Latin America is aimed at Europe where demand in Britain, France, Italy and Spain is rising.

In order to meet the demand, Latin American drug traffickers have opened up new routes to Europe via the Caribbean and west Africa.

Illegal drugs transported by boats, planes or even submarines are beginning to undermine numerous African countries already weakened by corruption and poverty.

Guinea-Bissau, for example, has developed a reputation as a "narco-state." The 2009 assassination of President Joao Bernardo Vieira by soldiers is widely believed to be linked to a dispute involving cocaine trafficking.

© 2011 AFP

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