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By Margarita Antidze
TBILISI (Reuters) - Georgia's interior minister said on Friday that $400 million of heroin seized earlier this month, in the country's biggest ever drugs haul, belonged to the Taliban and was headed for Europe.
Ex-Soviet Georgia is on a drug trafficking route between Asia and Europe, often originating in Afghanistan and moving westward via Iran and the South Caucasus to Russia, Turkey or Western Europe, according to a recent U.S. State Department report.
Georgian police arrested two Georgian citizens after finding 2.79 tonnes of liquid heroin in a truck that had entered Georgia from neighbouring Azerbaijan.
The truck was carrying 93 30-litre plastic barrels filled with an illegal substance that was 80 percent heroin, the police said.
"That drug originated in Afghanistan and belonged to the Taliban," Alexander Chikaidze, Georgia's interior minister, said during a hearing in parliament on Friday.
"Heroin that we seized worth about $400 million. It was intended to be delivered to Europe via Georgia and Turkey."
Georgia's previous biggest drugs seizure was last July, when police arrested two foreigners after finding 116 kg of heroin in a truck that entered the country from Armenia.
According to the U.S. State Department report, strengthened border security measures since 2013 and a more proactive approach to investigations and inspection in Georgia have "led to a dramatic increase in drug seizures".
(Writing by Margarita Antidze; Editing by Susan Fenton)