Kenya says U.K. mission to recommend lifting Khat ban

NAIROBI (AA) - Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on Thursday expressed optimism that a British fact-finding parliamentary mission would convince their government to lift a ban on the import of the leafy narcotic Khat from the East African nation.

"The President welcomed the visit by the UK Home Affairs select committee and expressed optimism that it would succeed in its mission," the presidency said in a press release.

President Kenyatta met the members of the mission – who are drawn from the British House of Commons’ Home Affairs office – in the central Kenyan town of Nanyuki.

"The mission had completed an inquiry and produced a report which recommended the UK to refrain from banning Khat," read the statement.

According to the presidency, the delegation, led by Committee Chairman Labor MP Keith Vaz, had met stakeholders involved in the Khat business and the community that grows the narcotic leaf in Meru, a city on the northeast slopes of Mount Kenya.

During the meetings the mission collected evidence that would support its push for the lifting of the ban.

Importation of Khat into Britain has been banned since July of last year to prevent the U.K. from becoming a transit route for illegal shipments of Khat to other European countries.

Recent official statistics in Kenya show that Khat, referred to locally as veve or miraa, is one of Kenya's main exports, earning farmers nearly $100 million a year.

Also cultivated in certain areas of the Arabian Peninsula, Khat has been banned in Europe, the U.S. and Canada.

Khat, a mildly narcotic plant is chewed by Kenyans, Somalis, Djiboutians, Ethiopians and Yemeni communities.

The World Health Organization says Khat users can suffer from a range of diseases such as tuberculosis, anemia and impotence.

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