Selasa, 29 April 2014

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The Star Online: Metro: Central

Australia warns meth pandemic as drug busts hit record

Posted: 29 Apr 2014 04:03 AM PDT

Sydney (AFP) - Australia is facing a crystal meth pandemic, authorities warned Tuesday as they announced arrests and seizures over illicit drugs reached an all-time high last year.

The government-run Australian Crime Commission (ACC) said in a report that the situation was "gravely serious", with international cartels at the heart of the problem.

"National illicit drug seizures and arrests were at record or decade highs for nearly all drug types in this reporting period," said ACC acting chief executive Paul Jevtovic.

"Illicit drug use in Australia, and the profits gained from it, is directly linked to transnational organised crime groups that are implicated in large-scale criminality and corruption overseas."

During the financial year to July 2013, a record 101,749 arrests were made and there were 86,918 seizures of illicit drugs -- a 66 percent increase over the past decade.

Police have previously said Australia's wealth and the strength of the Australian dollar meant traffickers were pouring drugs into the country.

"Australians, for whatever reason, are prepared to pay a high price for illicit drugs, probably because they can," ACC official Judy Lind told reporters.

"And in the last four or five year, international drug cartels have cottoned on to that."

While cannabis continues to dominate the Australian market, the prevalence of cocaine and performance-enhancing drugs was also at record highs.

There was also a massive surge in the availability of ice -- or crystal methylamphetamine -- which is now second only to cannabis in popularity, with seizures up more than 300 percent in a year.

Jevtovic said the issue was a "national concern", with the drug linked to violent assaults as users can become highly aggressive, and compared it to the crack crisis that gripped the US in the 1980s and 1990s.

"With its relative accessibility, affordability and destructive side-effects, crystal methylamphetamine is emerging as a pandemic akin to the issue of 'crack' cocaine in the United States," he said.

Justice Minister Michael Keenan agreed that the ice epidemic was becoming a major problem.

"Ice is a devastating, insidious drug. It affects everyone from users, their families, and their communities, and the authorities who deal with the users," he said, adding that the report provided authorities with a robust picture of the illicit drug market.

"The information released today is as encouraging as it is challenging. Law enforcement is making significant inroads in the fight against illicit drugs. We're detecting more criminals and disrupting more illicit drugs before they hit the streets," said Keenan.

"But there is much more work to be done and this report also provides critical evidence so that decision makers and law enforcement officers can develop further strategies to undermine the business models of organised crime and combat the threat of illicit drugs." - AFP

Obama ignites Chinese anger as he warns against force

Posted: 29 Apr 2014 03:56 AM PDT

Manila (AFP) - Barack Obama ended an Asian tour Tuesday with a warning to China against using force in territorial disputes, as Chinese authorities accused the US president of ganging up with "troublemaking" allies.

The barbs ensured a tense finish to a four-nation trip dominated by the worsening maritime rows between China and US allies in the region, which have triggered fears of military conflict.

"We believe that nations and peoples have the right to live in security and peace, to have their sovereignty and territorial integrity respected," Obama told a gathering of US and Filipino troops in Manila.

"We believe that international law must be upheld, that freedom of navigation must be preserved and commerce must not be impeded. We believe that disputes must be resolved peacefully and not by intimidation or force."

Close American ally the Philippines has been embroiled in one of the highest-profile territorial disputes with China, over tiny islets, reefs and rocks in the South China Sea.

China claims nearly all of the South China Sea, which is believed to contain huge deposits of oil and gas, even waters and islands or reefs close to its neighbours.

The Philippines, which has one of the weakest militaries in the region, has repeatedly called on longtime ally the United States for help as China has increased military and diplomatic pressure to take control of the contested areas.

The Philippines and the United States signed an agreement on Monday that will allow a greater US military presence on Filipino bases.

- Obama pledges support -

And Obama sought on Tuesday to reassure the Philippines that the United States would support its ally in the event of being attacked, citing a 1951 mutual defence treaty between the two nations.

"This treaty means our two nations pledge, and I am quoting, 'our common determination to defend themselves from external armed attacks'," Obama said.

"And no potential aggressor can be under the illusion that either of them stands alone. In other words, our commitment to defend the Philippines is ironclad. The United States will keep that commitment because allies will never stand alone."

Nevertheless, Obama did not specifically mention coming to the aid of the Philippines if there were a conflict over the contested South China Sea areas, as his hosts had hoped.

On the first leg of his Asian tour in Tokyo, Obama had made such a pledge of support to Japan, which is locked in its own dispute with China over rival claims to islands in the East China Sea.

Obama's nuanced position on the Philippines was part of a tight-rope act he had tried to perform during his trip -- reassuring allies wary about China's perceived increased hostility while not antagonising the leadership in Beijing.

While offering pledges of protection to Japan and the Philippines, Obama also insisted the United States was not seeking to counter or contain China.

And reflecting the difficulties of Obama's balancing act, there were complaints in the Philippines that he had not offered explicit support in the event of a conflict over the contested South China Sea areas.

- 'Troublemaking allies' -

Nevertheless, an editorial in the state-run China Daily newspaper on Tuesday signalled that Chinese authorities viewed Obama's trips to Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines as a tour of anti-Chinese hostility.

"It is increasingly obvious that Washington is taking Beijing as an opponent," the editorial said as it summarised his visit.

"With Obama reassuring the US allies of protection in any conflict with China, it is now clear that Washington is no longer bothering to conceal its attempt to contain China's influence in the region."

The editorial warned against believing Obama's "sweet promises" of a new, constructive relationship between the United States and China, and instead outlined what it described as a "grim geopolitical reality".

"Ganging up with its troublemaking allies, the US is presenting itself as a security threat to China," it said.

Meanwhile, three Chinese coastguard ships sailed into waters around the islands in the East China Sea disputed between China and Japan, the Japanese coastguard said.

It said the vessels entered 12 nautical miles (22 kilometres) into Japan's territorial waters off one of the Senkaku islands, which China also claims and calls the Diaoyus.

It was the second such move since Obama announced last week that Washington would defend Japan if China initiates an attack in the contested area. - AFP


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