LONDON, May 23 (KUNA) -- Farmers in southern Iraq have started to grow
opium poppies in their fields for the first time, sparking fears that Iraq
might become a serious drugs producer along the lines of Afghanistan, it was
revealed here Wednesday.
Rice farmers along the Euphrates, to the west of the city of Diwaniya,
south of Baghdad, have stopped cultivating rice, for which the area is famous,
and are instead planting poppies, Iraqi sources familiar with the area told
The Independent newspaper.
The shift to opium cultivation is still in its early stages but there is
little the Iraqi Government can do about it because rival Shia militias and
their surrogates in the security forces control Diwaniya and its neighbourhood.
There have been bloody clashes between militiamen, police, Iraqi army and
US forces in the city over the past two months, the paper said.
The shift to opium production is taking place in the well-irrigated land
west and south of Diwaniya around the towns of Ash Shamiyah, al Ghammas and
The farmers are said to be having problems in growing the poppies because
of the intense heat and high humidity.
It is too dangerous for foreign journalists to visit Diwaniya, but the
start of opium poppy cultivation is attested by two students from there and a
source in Basra familiar with the Iraqi drugs trade.
Drug smugglers have for long used Iraq as a transit point for heroin,
produced from opium in laboratories in Afghanistan, being sent through Iran to
rich markets in the area, The Independent added. (end)
KUNA 231520 May 07NNNN