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Norway’s Aid to Iran Worries Iranian Opposition

The Norwegian Fund to Iran in combating drug trafficking creates turmoil among Iranian oppositional groups. Norway says it is not against the sanction policy against the country.
Norway’s Aid to Iran Worries Iranian Opposition
Photo: Wikimedia - Light enhanced, night vision photography, showing Iraqi Special Operations Forces Soldiers conducting night missions on border, to disrupt smuggling, in the area.
The agreement between the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) for funding Iran’s Drug Control Agency drew a reaction from a group of Iranian citizens, who have been in contact with The Nordic Page.

Group representative D. Azad noted that the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs plans to provide 24 million NOK to a Teheran government drug control agency through the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in Teheran as the MFA has been accused of not paying proper attention to human rights abuse of the government in Iran , with the Iran Ministry of Interior, which is heading this drug control agency in Teheran, and Revolutionary Guards who control the Iran drug agency. According to Azad, senior people of this drug control agency have direct records of being involved in human right violations in Iran and Azad therefore calls Norway to stop this aid in light of this information.

MFA: This Is Aid with a Complete Purpose

Political Advisor in MFA’s Middle East Section, Tor Kinsarvik said to The Nordic Page that it is vital to be aware of the dimensions of the drug trafficking problem in the region before commenting on this appeal. He pointed out that 60 percent of Afghanistan-origin drug s is smuggled through Iran and this is problematic for both Iran and western countries as they are destined to arrive in Europe. “So, here is a mutual interest in combating this traffic,” said Kinsarvik.

Kinsarvik also suggested that there are several dimensions of the problem. Noting Iran’s arduous struggle with the issue at border control level, he argued it is impossible to solve the problem with such a hard-line approach.

Moreover, the MFA Advisor stressed on the importance of the juridical dimension by reminding that the smugglers captured in this border controls are usually executed. “This is a human right issue, which Norway is concerned about. We hope this aid will help to diversify the approaches to the problem,” said Kinsarvik.

Kinsarvik also answered the questions concerning the control of the fund in Iran. He noted corruption and misuse is a problem which exists in all countries and they are aware of the fact that Iran is a complicated case, but said Norway has a strict control policy in supervision of its aids and right to cancel it anytime if any problem arises.



Embassy of Iran in Norway: Claims are Groundless

The Embassy categorically rejected the allegations while it believes that narcotic drugs are a global problem which must be addressed globally through partnerships. The Head of the Embassy’s Press Section, Mohammad Javad Hosseini, said that the Islamic Republic of Iran has been making strong efforts to be a leading country in combating the world drug problem, since it is, after all, a neighbour to the main opium producer in the world and as a transit country, where well equipped traffickers use its territory to reach their destinations in Europe. Hosseini also states Iran has been paying a high price for the sake of humanity, sacrificing more than 3600 lives and 11000 being wounded during the 3 last decades.

Furthermore, Hosseini reports that Iran is spending approximately 600 million dollars every year to strengthen the physical barriers along its eastern borders with Afghanistan with regard to the nature and importance of the problem of narcotic drugs. He also suggested that they do it without waiting for other countries’ promises of technical and financial assistance to be materialized, which have been praised by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

The Norwegian Aid to UNODC’s Country Program in Norway

MFA has decided to contribute 24 Million NOK to UNODC’s Country Program for Iran for the period of 2011-14

The goal of the program is a reduction in drug trafficking, a reduction in drug dependency, administering the drugs in sterilized conditionand prevalence among drug dependents and improved institutional frameworks on crime justice and corruption.

It is also aimed to assist enhancement of Iranian capacities on drugs and crime, as well as promoting the implementation of international convention, standards and practices in Iran.

The program consists of three sub-programs:

1. Illicit Trafficking and Border Management

2. Drug Demand Reduction and HIV Control

3. Crime, Justice and Corruption

Drug Trafficking through Iran

For decades, Iran had been the main transit point for transporting drugs from Afghanistan to Europe (France and Italy), where the raw opium was refined into heroin. Transit through Iran was possible because of access to the sea, as well as the developed port and road infrastructure.

In 1989, the Iranian Parliament passed a law providing the death penalty for drug trafficking. Also, some troops of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps have been created and specially trained.

As the United States continues its war against terrorism on Afghan soil and opposition forces consolidate their hold, neighboring Iran is getting more headaches from a deluge of Afghan refugees, as well as the side effects of the uncertainty there.

Due to the general sanction against the country, Iran was unable to receive any new aid in its anti-drug units.

A "heroin tsunami" could hit Europe if the drug interdiction by Iran is weakened, warned Antonio Maria Costa, the director of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime. Roberto Arbitrio, head of the U.N. drugs and crime office in Iran, said the war on drugs should be viewed as "a non-political area of mutual interest."

About UNODC

UNODC is a global leader in the fight against illicit drugs and international crime. Established in 1997 through a merger between the United Nations Drug Control Programme and the Centre for International Crime Prevention, UNODC operates in all regions of the world through an extensive network of field offices. UNODC relies on voluntary contributions, mainly from Governments, for 90 per cent of its budget.

UNODC is mandated to assist Member States in their struggle against illicit drugs, crime and terrorism. In the Millennium Declaration, Member States also resolved to intensify efforts to fight transnational crime in all its dimensions, to redouble the efforts to implement the commitment to counter the world drug problem and to take concerted action against international terrorism.
TNP-April Issue
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