DRUG smugglers are using war-torn Iraq to transit Afghan heroin into Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries, according to a United Nations report.
The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) 2007 report also states that abuse of Amphetamine-Type Stimulants (ATS) continues to spread in various West Asian countries, including Iran and several on the Arabian Peninsula.
It said part of the problem was based on the fact that, according to last year's Afghanistan Opium Survey, opium poppy cultivation covered 193,000 hectares in 2007, an increase of 17 per cent from 2006.
"Drug trafficking and abuse are deteriorating on the Arabian Peninsula," said the report.
"In particular, the board notes that drug control legislation in Palestine needs to be examined and updated with the assistance of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.
"Until recently, Iraq had been used as a transit area for smuggling Afghan heroin through Iran into Saudi Arabia and other countries in the area of the Arabian Gulf.
"Illicit drug trafficking and the risk of illicit cultivation of opium poppy have been increasing in some areas with grave security problems.
"Though official data is lacking it appears that drug abuse in Iraq has increased dramatically, including among children from relatively affluent families."
The report also said Oman was increasingly becoming used as a transit point for illicit drug consignments.
"Because of porous land borders, cannabis, opium and heroin shipments for Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan are smuggled through Oman," it said.
"The latest statistics indicate that there are more than 1,000 individuals registered as drug abusers and receiving free treatment for drug abuse in Oman."
The Vienna-based INCB is an independent organisation charged with monitoring the implementation of UN drug control conventions.
Its annual report presents an analysis of the situation around the world and comes up with conclusions and recommendations as part of efforts to contribute to policy discussions and decisions about national, regional and international drug control.
The 2007 report referred to the 21st anti-narcotics conference held in Tunis in June last year, where representatives of the Arab League agreed to take action against money laundering and the financing of terrorism, as well as create more rehabilitation centres for drug addicts.
Delegates also discussed the illegal sale of drugs via the Internet and drug smuggling by couriers, which the 129-page document said had emerged in several Arab countries in recent years.
The report also expressed concern about the growing rate of drug abuse and crime in Palestine, with around 10,000 people in the West Bank and Gaza Strip registered as drug abusers - along with up to 15,000 in Jerusalem.
However, the report stated there were no rehabilitation facilities.
"While the smoking of cannabis and the injection of heroin have increased significantly in recent years, polydrug use (two or more psychoactive drugs taken in combination) and the abuse of over-the-counter medicines are also spreading," said the report.