Middle East

YEMEN

Just Say No

Government officials in Yemen are campaigning to discourage use of the wildly popular mild narcotic qat, but its chances for success appear slim, reports Hamoud Mansar in Al-Quds al-Arabi.

Some worry that use of the plant, a mild sedative that is chewed daily by many Yemenis, has deleterious effects on public health and work output while sucking away income in one of the world's poorest countries.

To set an example, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh announced recently that he would stop using qat and is trying to get government ministers to do likewise. "I have managed to convince some of my close colleagues in government," said Saleh, conceding that he has had less success swaying others.

Association for Confronting the Harmful Effects of Oat reports that Yemenis spend about $2.1 billion annually on qat-a figure that exceeds the state's annual budget.

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