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Asian Nations Sign Drug-Free Pact

July 25, 1998

MANILA, Philippines (AP) _ Drug trafficking in Southeast Asia, already linked to crimes such as arms smuggling, could cause political and security threats as well, officials said in an accord signed Saturday.

Foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations signed the declaration, which sets the goal of a drug-free region by 2020, at the end of their annual meeting in Manila.

ASEAN’s campaign to eradicate illegal drugs has been boosted by its admission last year of Myanmar and Laos, which together with Thailand form the ``Golden Triangle,″ the source of 60 percent of the heroin reaching the United States.

``It’s getting worse,″ Philippine Foreign Assistant Secretary Ernesto Llamas said of Asia’s drug problem.

In the statement, ASEAN’s nine members agreed to strengthen links with international narcotics agencies, toughen anti-narcotics laws and share information on drug trade.

They also agreed to cooperate in investigating, prosecuting and seizing the properties of drug traffickers.

The statement also proposes the promotion of alternative livelihoods for people who currently depend on the drug trade.

Llamas said almost all ASEAN countries have increasing drug problems except for Singapore, which has been able to keep drug use under control.

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