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SCO to Join Int'l Efforts to Build Anti-drug Belt Around Afghanistan
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The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) will join international efforts to build an anti-drug belt around Afghanistan to combat drug smuggling, said Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister Li Hui in Beijing Monday.


Li made the remarks at a press briefing for the upcoming SCO summit slated for June 15 in Shanghai.


"Afghanistan is a major source of drugs," Li said, adding SCO member states are major victims of drug crimes.


"SCO is willing to actively join international efforts to build an anti-drug belt around Afghanistan, and conduct anti-drug cooperation with the country under the framework of SCO-Afghanistan liaison group," he said.


Li said drug crimes not only threaten regional peace and stability but also serve as a major source of money for terrorism and extremism activities.


Established in 2001, the SCO groups China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Since 2004, the organization has accepted Mongolia, Iran, Pakistan and India as observers.


Heads of states of the six SCO member countries as well as the observers will attend the upcoming summit. They are expected to issue a declaration to summarize SCO's work in the past year and blueprint its task for the coming year.


President Hu Jintao will preside over the summit and deliver a key-note speech on China's policies towards SCO and its suggestion on the body's development.


Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Executive Secretary Vladimir Rushailo of the Commonwealth of Independent States and Deputy Secretary-General Wilfrido. V. Villacorta of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations will attend the summit as guests.


A conference marking the founding of SCO businessmen commission and an industrial and commercial summit will also be held on the sidelines of the event.


Li said China has arranged for activities for Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad according to SCO regulations and international convention.


"President Ahmadinejad will deliver a speech at the summit as other heads of states do," he said.


In line with the organization's regulations, SCO Secretary-General Zhang Deguang will end his three-year tenure at the end of 2006.


"Next secretary-general will come out of Kazakhstan according to the Russian alphabetical order," Li said.


He also refuted criticism on SCO's lack of "transparency," saying the body's activities are "open to the world" and its conferences are "open for reporters."


Altogether 720 journalists have applied to report the summit, according to Li.


(Xinhua News Agency June 12, 2006)

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