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UNESCO chief sends special envoy to Kabul

PARIS (March 2, 2001): The Director-General of UNESCO Koichiro Matsuura has sent a special envoy to Afghanistan in a bid to persuade the Taliban authorities to stop the destruction of pre-Islamic statuary, he announced on Friday.

Matsuura was speaking at a symposium at UNESCO's Paris headquarters -- planned several months ago -- on the cultural heritage of Central Asia and Afghanistan.

Without naming the envoy, he said he was "a personality who is well-known and respected in the region, and an expert on Middle Eastern and central Asian matters."

Taliban fighters were reported to be using rocket and tank shells on Friday to destroy ancient Buddha statues in central Bamiyan province, in compliance with a decree issued on Monday by Supreme Leader Mulla Mohammad Omar.

"Words fail me to describe adequately my feelings of consternation and powerlessness as I see the reports of the irreversible damage that is being done to Afghanistan's exceptional cultural heritage," Matsuura said.


Updated: 3-3-2001

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