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U.S. says the world is getting the message on meth

Drug trade - A U.N. resolution adopted last month aims to curb the international flow of ingredients
Monday, April 03, 2006
STEVE SUO of the Origonian

The U.S. diplomat who negotiated a new international resolution on ephedrine and pseudoephedrine says it will bring much tighter control over the trade in the methamphetamine ingredients.

Tom Schweich, deputy assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement affairs, said the U.N. resolution affects all countries that import or export the chemicals and that it carries the force of international law.

Even though such resolutions include no threat of explicit sanctions, Schweich said, "Countries adhere to them, and they take them very seriously. And if they don't, they're called to the mat for it in public."

All nations will be asked to provide estimates of their domestic demand for the cough and cold medicines under the resolution, adopted unanimously by the U.N. Commission on Narcotic Drugs last month.

The International Narcotics Control Board in Vienna could use the information to halt shipments that exceed a country's legitimate need.

Officials in the United States, which lobbied for the new system, said it will have a major impact on the meth trade.

"Simply put, if there are no chemicals, there are no drugs," DEA Administrator Karen Tandy said in a written statement. She said the U.N. resolution "will go a long way to helping the international law enforcement community keep chemicals out of the hands of the wrong people."

The resolution comes at an important time of transition for the North American meth trade. Mexican authorities have dramatically reduced the amount of pseudoephedrine allowed into the country. U.S. imports of pseudoephedrine are plummeting in the wake of sales restrictions on over-the-counter cold medicine.

But U.S. officials expect Mexican drug cartels -- the source of 65 percent of meth sold in the United States -- to respond by targeting nations in Latin America as sources of chemicals.

The narcotics board in Vienna already has documented recent attempts by traffickers to route shipments through Belize and Nicaragua.    More