Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Afghanistan: Opium Poppies Flourish; Children-Not So Much (see below entry)

"KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- A ''cancer of insurgency'' in southern Afghanistan could drive the 2007 opium poppy harvest to record levels, the U.N. drug agency chief said Monday.

"The U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime predicted that last year's harvest record would be broken by an increase in 15 provinces, including Helmand -- the world's largest poppy-growing region and the scene of a growing number of attacks by Taliban fighters who use opium to fund their insurgency.

"The office said in a new report that, while cultivation was expected to drop in central and northern Afghanistan, the drug trade is flourishing in the south.

'''On balance, the increase in the south may be greater than the decline elsewhere, causing a possible further rise in Afghanistan's aggregate drug supply this year,'' the U.N. said. A strong eradication campaign could lower the year-end totals, it said.

"Antonio Maria Costa, UNODC executive director, said the increase in the south was a result of security problems. Many southern regions have no government presence, and farmers act with impunity. Taliban fighters protect opium growers and transport and tax the crop, he said.

"Opium cultivation has surged since the ouster of the Taliban in late 2001. Under strong international pressure, the former regime had enforced an effective ban on poppy growing by threatening to jail farmers -- virtually eradicating the crop in 2000.

Found on Angry Arab Newservice

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