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150 nations vow to trim drug demand

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Endorsing a global campaign against drugs, 150 nations have pledged to coordinate efforts to reduce demand, curb money-laundering and sharply cut the supply of narcotics in the next 10 years.

"We are not starting a new `war on drugs' " Pino Arlacchi, head of the U.N. Drug Control Office, told delegates Wednesday at the end of their three-day U.N. special session on drugs.A better analogy, he said, was "a doctor facing a deadly disease. Drugs quite simply kill people. And it is our responsibility to find the cure."

The summit ended with participants approving a 31-page plan for governments to work together to curb trafficking, reduce demand, improve judicial cooperation, combat money-laundering and reduce the cultivation of narcotic crops.

Despite the approval, delegates were divided about how to wage the campaign. Leaders of drug-producing countries in Latin America and Asia said the United States and other consumer nations must reduce demand.

President Clinton, who addressed the conference Monday, announced a $2 billion media campaign against drugs. But he refused to endorse one of the pillars of the U.N. program: financial incentives to persuade Third World farmers to quit growing narcotic crops.

U.N. officials estimate the program will cost more than $250 million annually for 10 years.

"There needs to be money," said Dr. Hamid Ghodse, president of the International Narcotics Control Board. "Regrettably, I didn't hear any of the countries openly and frankly commit themselves to any cash."

Without the money, Ghose said, "all of this would be wasted."

Singapore defended its policy of mandatory executions for drug traffickers. The Netherlands and Switzerland argued their approaches - such as tolerating "soft drugs" and prescribing heroin to addicts - are the best way to curb drug-related crime.

"I wish to repeat this loud and clear here: Switzerland is not moving toward drug liberalization," Swiss Vice President Ruth Dreifuss said.

Dreifuss said Switzerland's controversial program to prescribe heroin to hardcore addicts had enabled authorities to "reach high-dependent drug addicts who had tried other forms of therapy but without success."

Some private drug research organizations said the United Nations was focusing too much attention on law enforcement programs, such as tracing and confiscating drug profits.

"Like the drug war itself, the U.N. drug summit was a failure," said Dr. Ethan Nadelmann, director of the Lindesmith Center. "Rather than producing the intended unity, the drug summit exposed deep divisions between drug war zealots who advocate spending on a failed policy and the reformers who want new approaches."