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Wednesday, June 9, 1999 Published at 18:45 GMT 19:45 UK


World: Middle East

Yemen kicks the khat habit

Khat is grown on 80% of Yemen's agricultural land

An organisation has been launched in Yemen to persuade people to stop chewing the popular narcotic leaf, khat.

Many Yemenis spend up to eight hours a day chewing the stimulant and more than 80% of the agricultural land is given over to growing it.

But last month President Ali Abdullah Saleh announced he was confining his own khat habit to weekends only.


[ image: President Ali Abdullah Saleh: Urged Yemenis to follow his lead]
President Ali Abdullah Saleh: Urged Yemenis to follow his lead
And he urged people to follow his example and turn instead to sport and other healthier activities.

Doctors say chewing khat can cause unpredictable behaviour and lead to other long-term diseases and psychological disorders.

The Friends Without Khat Association was launched on Wednesday to support government efforts to wean people off the narcotic.

Government figures show khat takes up 75% of Yemen's irrigation capabilities.

The first written account of the effects of khat appeared more than seven centuries ago in an Arabic medical book.

Today, several million people in East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula are habitual khat chewers.





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