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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 April, 2005, 10:54 GMT 11:54 UK
Afghanistan to pursue opium war
A farmer extracting opium from a poppy blossom
Aid agencies say farmers need to be offered alternative livelihoods
The Afghan government says it will press ahead with a poppy eradication programme despite strong resistance from farmers in the south.

A farmer was killed and several others injured in clashes with anti-drugs forces near Kandahar on Tuesday.

The destruction of crops was halted while officials tried to persuade village elders to support the drive.

Aid agencies say opium crop growers need to be given alternative livelihoods if the policy is to work.

The government says villagers' demands for an alternative way to earn a living have to be seriously considered.

'Narco-state'

More than 1,000 farmers took part in the violent protest against the destruction of poppy fields in the village of Maiwand, 80km (50 miles) west of the southern city of Kandahar on Tuesday.

Additional police had been sent to Maiwand to support the anti-drugs force when it resumes its work, Afghan interior ministry spokesman Lutfullah Mashal told Reuters news agency.

"We expect to start the operation after the talks and after addressing the concerns of the people over the destruction of their fields," Mr Mashal said.

The eradication programme in other parts of the country was going on as normal, he added.

Cultivation of opium, which is used to make heroin, fell in many areas in the past year - having spiralled after the fall of the Taleban regime.

Afghanistan supplied more than 80% of the world's demand for heroin last year, according to the UN.

It says the country is at risk of becoming a "narco-state" unless action is taken to stop production and trafficking gangs.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has promised a "holy war" against the opium trade which he has described as a "disgrace" to the nation.

The US, France and the UK have been training police units to destroy crops, dismantle heroin labs and arrest smugglers while helping farmers switch to legal crops.

The US has earmarked $780m (408m) for anti-narcotics programmes for 2005.

But the plan to destroy up to 30,000 hectares of poppy fields this year - about 25% of land cultivated in 2004 - has alarmed aid agencies.

They say the policy - in particular, aerial spraying of crops - has the potential to create civil unrest and could bring hardship to farmers who live off opium cultivation.

They say farmers need to be offered alternative livelihoods if they are to be persuaded to abandon opium crops.





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