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Afghanistan Says It Is Considering Licenses to Grow Opium

By Carlotta Gall

Afghanistan, the world’s biggest producer of opium and its derivative, heroin, acknowledged Monday that it has considered licensing its vast illicit crop and using it to produce opium-based medicines, though it ruled out such a move in the immediate future.

The government said it welcomed the release on Monday of a feasibility study about the subject by a European-based drug policy research organization, the Senlis Council. But Afghanistan’s counternarcotics minister, Habibullah Qaderi, ruled out adopting such a program until security conditions in the country improve.

The idea of licensing poppy cultivation completely goes against current counternarcotics policy in Afghanistan, designed with Britain’s help, which calls for eradicating poppy fields and persuading farmers to adopt alternative crops through assistance programs, much of it financed by the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Spain Issues First Prison
Sentence for 9/11

By Renwick Mclean

A Spanish court Monday sentenced a Syrian man to 27 years in prison for conspiring to commit the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States and leading a cell of the terrorist network al-Qaida in Madrid. The sentence is the only one to date in connection with the attacks.

In addition to the main defendant, Imad Eddin Barakat Yarkas, 41, also known as Abu Dahdah, 17 other men were found guilty of either belonging to or aiding his terrorist cell. Those men, including Taysir Alony, a correspondent for the Arabic satellite network Al-Jazeera, received sentences of from six to 11 years.

Though the convictions were considered a victory for Spain’s aggressive campaign of anti-terrorism arrests since the attacks, it fell short of prosecutors’ goals. They had sought a sentence of more than 74,000 years for Yarkas, based on an estimated death toll of nearly 3,000 when hijacked jetliners were crashed into the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington on Sept. 11, 2001.

The three-judge panel rejected the prosecution’s charge that Yarkas was directly responsible the attacks, agreeing only that he had participated in the plot’s “criminal formation.”

In an interview after the verdict was read, Jacobo Teijelo Casanova, a lawyer for Yarkas, said he will advise his client to appeal the decision.

IRA Destroys Its Weapons

By Brian Lavery

The Irish Republican Army has completely and permanently dismantled its weaponry, the agency that oversees paramilitary disarmament in Northern Ireland said Monday, signaling the end of an era in which the group killed more than 1,700 people in assassinations, bombings and guerrilla warfare.

“We are satisfied that the arms decommissioned represent the totality of the IRA’s arsenal,” John De Chastelain, the retired Canadian general who heads the independent agency and directly supervised three previous rounds of IRA disarmament, said at a news conference here.

The IRA ceased its major attacks in the late 1990s, and pledged to disarm two months ago, when it also declared an end to its campaign against British control of Northern Ireland.

But De Chastelain offered few details that would convince Protestants that they should resume sharing power with Sinn Fein, the IRA’s political wing, in the province’s stalled legislature.