Lebanon\'s interior minister warns farmers against return to opium
Interior Minister Michel Murr has warned Lebanese farmers against a return to the planting of opium poppy seeds, newspapers reported Monday, November 26.
"Security forces will destroy all opium poppies and arrest any farmer or trader," Murr said, quoted in the Beirut press. Murr said the authorities had "learned that some farmers intend to plant opium poppy seeds" and warned that security forces would act to protect the health of Lebanon's youth.
Opium poppies, from which heroin is also extracted, were introduced to Lebanon at the end of the 1980s, alongside the local cannabis trade which dates back almost 100 years. Drugs were a thriving business during the 1975-1990 civil war, raising revenues of about four billion dollars each year, mostly from hashish and heroin.
In 1992 the government, backed by powerful neighbor Syria, launched a crackdown on the drugs trade. But the business has made a comeback since last year after a UN-sponsored crop substitution program failed to attract the foreign aid needed to give farmers an alternative source of livelihood. Pressed by the international community, the government has announced a "speedy" plan to fight a resurgence of the illicit business.— (AFP, Beirut)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)