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Leaders Ask UN for New Drug Policy

June 6, 1998

UNITED NATIONS (AP) _ Saying the drug war has caused more harm than drug abuse itself, prominent world figures are calling for ``a truly open dialogue″ to shift drug control policies from punishment to public health issues.

The call is being made in a letter to Secretary-General Kofi Annan from the Lindesmith Center, a private institute which conducts drug research, in advance of the U.N. General Assembly special session on drugs, which opens Monday.

Dr. Ethan Nadelmann, director of the center, said the letter has been signed by more than 500 prominent people, including former Secretary of State George Shultz, former Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar, former Greek President George Papandreou, former President Oscar Arias of Costa Rica and former German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger.

``We believe that the global war on drugs is now causing more harm than drug abuse itself,″ the letter said. ``Human rights are violated, environmental assaults perpetrated and prisons inudated with hundreds of thousands of drug violators.″

The letter said scarce resources are being diverted ``on ever more expensive interdiction efforts″ while ``realistic proposals to reduce drug-related crime, disease and death″ are abandoned ``in favor of rhetorical proposals to create drug-free societies.″

``Persisting in our current policies will only result in more drug abuse, more empowerment of drug markets and criminals and more disease and suffering,″ the letter said.

It appealed to Annan ``to initiate a truly open and honest dialogue regarding the future of global drug policies _ one in which fear, prejudice and punitive prohibitions yield to common sense, science, public health and human rights.″

Nadelmann said the U.N. conference should consider the global drug policy as a public heath issue, using the resources of U.N. agencies such as the World Health Organization to devise policies to replace those based on ``interdiction and criminalization.″

Representatives of about 150 countries, including 35 heads of state and government, are to attend the three-day conference. President Clinton will deliver the opening address Monday.

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