TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iran's interior minister said Thursday international sanctions imposed over the country's nuclear program have hindered its ability to fight drug smuggling.
Iran lies on a major trafficking route between Afghanistan and Europe, as well as the Persian Gulf states. Large drug seizures are common across the region.
"The sanctions have made it difficult for us to import electronic and technical equipment needed for fighting drug trafficking, while we do the fight to help the world," Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli said. "We couldn't even import X-ray and other necessary equipment. Does this really help in fighting drugs?"
He spoke at a ceremony during which police destroyed about 50 metric tons (55 tons) of seized narcotics in the presence of officials and foreign dignitaries, to highlight what Iran says are its unsupported efforts to stem the flow of narcotics across its territory to Europe.
The country has been under sanctions over its nuclear program, which the West suspects is aimed at covertly developing a weapons capability. Iran denies the charge, insisting its program is entirely devoted to peaceful purposes like power generation and medical isotopes.
Fazli said Iran confiscated some 550 tons of narcotics last year, around 14 percent more than the previous year, but that it needs more international assistance.
The minister said drug smuggling is often carried out by militants and defended Iran's execution of convicted smugglers, which has been criticized by international rights groups.
"We do not hang an addict or a trafficker simply for carrying narcotics. Traffickers who are executed in Iran not only carry narcotics, but are also armed, take part in armed conflicts, commit offenses and rapes, do money laundering and financially support terrorists and felons," Fazli said.
"They commit a series of crimes that, if not punished, endanger international order and global peace."
Amnesty International says Iran is the world's second biggest executioner after China. Iran does not publish figures on executions but insists it only administers the death penalty on those convicted in fair trials, and that criticism of its judicial system is part of a Western effort to undermine the Islamic Republic.
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