Iran seizes 8.8 tonnes of drugs destined for Europe
The shipment that comprised 3.5 tonnes of morphine and 5.3 tonnes of cocaine was bound for Europe, deputy police chief Ayoub Soleimani said.
"This huge narcotics shipment, which was hidden in a petrol tanker and reached here via Iran's eastern border, was supposed to be offloaded and then smuggled to European countries," Iranian state television reported from the northwestern city of Urmia.
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Soleimani said that nine suspected traffickers were arrested with an additional 20 kgs of heroin and 130 firearms in their possession.
Neighbouring Afghanistan produces around 90% of the world’s opium, which is extracted from poppy flowers and refined to make heroin and morphine.
Iran is a major transit route for the narcotics that are headed to Europe and beyond. It confiscates and destroys several tonnes of illicit narcotics every year.
UN figures state that Iran accounted for 91 per cent of the world's opium seizure and 20 per cent of heroin and morphine seizures in 2017.
Iran is using its role in combatting the narcotics trade to improve its negotiating power with Europe in the wake of US sanctions, and has repeatedly threatened to invest less in battling drug traffickers to mitigate the impact of US sanctions on its economy.
"Despite the international pressure and economic sanctions, Iran is still the world's bulwark against drug trafficking," Iranian state television said.
Tehran and Washington have been at loggerheads since May last year when Trump abandoned the 2015 nuclear deal and reimposed sanctions on Iran in a campaign of "maximum pressure".
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