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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 November 2006, 23:11 GMT
Afghanistan 'to spray poppy crop'
By Najiba Laima
BBC Pashto/Persian service

A farmer extracting opium from a poppy blossom
Opium poppies are a key source of income for many farmers
The Afghan government has for the first time accepted that aerial chemical spraying could be considered to curb the cultivation of opium poppies.

Poppy production across Afghanistan has increased by 60% since 2005.

A spokesman for the anti-narcotics ministry told the BBC that spraying could be used to free Afghanistan from its "biggest enemy", opium.

The government has resisted aerial spraying, but the spokesman said it was now being considered as a last resort.

Local people in the southern Helmand province, which cultivates more than a quarter of Afghanistan's poppies, claim there has already been clandestine spraying which reduced the province's poppy yield by more that half last year.

They say the spraying also badly affected other crops and that some people complained of skin conditions.

New plans

President Hamid Karzai has declared jihad, or war, against drugs, arguing they are destroying his country and its future prospects.

However, a leading member of the Afghan parliament, Daud Sultanzoy, has told the BBC that he will fight the aerial spraying.

He said Afghanistan should not become a test ground for western chemicals companies.

The latest announcement is part of a new initiative to curb poppy cultivation to be implemented in the 11 provinces where it is most rife.

Critics of the new strategy say that if it leads to farmers destroying their poppy fields, the government must at the same time move more quickly to provide them with alternative crops and livelihoods.


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