UN: $1.2B of cocaine though W. Africa each year

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UNITED NATIONS (AP) - The U.N. secretary-general says an estimated $1.2 billion worth of cocaine transits through West Africa each year, and the Security Council is expressing "deep concern" about the drug trade's increasing links to terrorist groups.

The council issued a presidential statement Wednesday after Ban Ki-moon briefed it on the widespread risks to stability in a region where borders are porous, governments are poorly funded and extremist groups are active.

West Africa's recent rise as a route for cocaine and other drugs from Latin America to Europe has startled the international community.

Diplomats now point out that the region is producing its own drugs, including methamphetamine.

Ban says the region now has "more than a million users of illicit drugs," which hurts development in the vast region where unemployment earlier this year was estimated at 10 percent.

The region is seeing a "growing number of HIV infections due to drug injections," Yury Fedotov, executive director of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, told the Security Council.

Fedotov also noted that the links between drug traffickers and extremist groups in the region are becoming "more obvious."

The presidential statement urges the countries in the region to work together to strengthen their borders and improve the fight against trafficking.

Ban contrasted the "weak intergovernmental coordination" in the region with the tight links among drug traffickers there.

Fedotov said the total amount of cocaine going through West Africa in 2010 was close to 33 tons, with 18 tons destined for Europe alone.

The U.N. special envoy to the region, Said Djinnit, stressed that outside help in fighting the increasingly interwoven problems of drugs and organized crime is needed.

"Indeed the West African and Sahelian states cannot bear alone the political and financial weight of this fight against criminal organizations, which are sometimes better equipped and resourced than the national institutions mandated to combat them," he said.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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