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Saturday, June 26, 1999 Published at 15:41 GMT 16:41 UK

World: South Asia

Taleban wages anti-drugs war from air

Afghanistan is one of the world's top opium producers

By BBC Correspondent William Reeve in Kabul

To mark International Day against Drug Abuse and Trafficking, the Taleban in Afghanistan resorted this year to a novel approach.

A military helicopter hovered above the capital, Kabul, throwing out leaflets condemning the use of narcotic drugs.

And at a ceremony in the capital's main hotel, speakers addressed the problems of drugs in Afghanistan which, along with Burma, produces more opium than anywhere else in the world.

The leaflets, scattered from the air over the streets of Kabul, concentrated on the problems of drug addiction.

They appealed to mullahs, parents and doctors to guide the country's youth away from the temptations of narcotics.

The evils of addiction

The leaflets pointed out that the cultivation of hashish or marijuana has been banned all over Taleban areas of Afghanistan and that those caught growing it would be punished severely.

[ image: Marijuana has been banned in Taleban areas]
Marijuana has been banned in Taleban areas
Likewise, at a ceremony in Kabul's main hotel, the emphasis of the proceedings was prevention of addiction in Afghanistan.

A group of boys sang a chant about resisting these temptations. Posters painted by Afghan artists depicted the evils of addiction.

One painting portrayed the effects of opium as more lethal than a bomb. Another depicted the stalk of an opium plant as a snake throttling the world.

Poppy cultivation on incease

But the main problem in Afghanistan is not addiction but the widespread and increasing cultivation of opium poppies.

[ image: Many farmers rely on the poppy crop]
Many farmers rely on the poppy crop
Surprisingly for a country which grows perhaps more opium than any other, addiction within Afghanistan is minimal, unlike in say neighbouring Pakistan and Iran.

All the indications are that the growth of opium poppies in Afghanistan is increasing year by year. The Taleban haven't banned this cultivation, unlike that of hashish.

They argue that too many people in a country whose economy has been destroyed survive for their living off the growth of poppies.

One speaker at the day's ceremony in Kabul appealed for more financial help from the outside world for projects to enable farmers to grow other cash crops instead of opium poppies.

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