updated 3/11/2009 3:08:17 PM ET 2009-03-11T19:08:17

Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan carried out their first joint counter-narcotics operation this week, pooling intelligence to arrest suspects and seize drugs in an unprecedented show of cooperation, U.N. officials disclosed Wednesday.

Officials at the Vienna-based U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime told The Associated Press the operation was conducted Sunday at undisclosed locations along Iran's borders with the two other countries.

Narcotics were seized and suspected traffickers arrested, the agency said, adding that it expected Iranian authorities to provide details.

Iran lies on a major drug route between Afghanistan and Europe.

"We are waiting anxiously for the results in terms of arrests and seizures," said Antonio Maria Costa, the U.N.'s chief anti-drugs official, hailing the joint operation for sending "a very important political message" to drug traffickers across the region.

Costa's office said the operation was part of a U.N. initiative aimed at getting the three countries to carry out joint patrols and share intelligence on the criminal gangs that process opium poppy into heroin and smuggle the drug to lucrative markets in Europe.

U.N. worked for year on alliance
Walter Kemp, a spokesman for the U.N. drugs office, told the AP that Sunday's operation ran from morning to midafternoon in the target areas. He said it came more than a year after the agency first tried to persuade all three countries to work together on the narcotics scourge.

U.S. officials also have been working to foster greater cooperation. Last week, the Obama administration said Iran would be invited to a high-level conference on Afghanistan's future.

Washington is trying to find new ways to lessen the influence of the Taliban in Afghanistan and get neighboring Pakistan to ease the threat of terrorism and extremism.

On Tuesday, the presidents of all three nations said they agreed that their foreign ministers would meet once a month to discuss common concerns.

Afghanistan is the world's largest opium producer, and it came under renewed scrutiny this week at an international conference in Vienna, where representatives from 130 countries were reviewing setbacks and successes in the global war on drugs.

Russia planned to press for changes in the way the world cracks down on the drug trade in Afghanistan, Russian media reports said.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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