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India Asks Taliban for Statues
(AP, March 3)

NEW DELHI, India - India asked Afghanistan's Taliban rulers on Friday to stop destroying its statues of Buddha and hand them over for preservation in India.

``If the Taliban do not wish to retain their inheritance, India would be happy to arrange for the transfer of all these artifacts to India, where they would be kept safely and preserved for all mankind,'' Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh said in parliament.

Afghanistan's Taliban leaders, who espouse a strict version of Islamic law, say statues are idolatrous and began destroying them on Thursday. All images, including statues and pictures, are contrary to Islam, said Taliban information minister Qadratullah Jamal.

Among the images the Taliban said it would destroy were two huge Buddha statues carved into the face of a mountain. One is 175 feet high and dates to the 5th century; the other is 120 feet tall and dates to the 3rd century.

``It is tragic that this act of vandalism, the most extreme among the many other acts of destruction of statues, artifacts and archaeological treasures of Afghanistan, is being pursued despite a global outcry against it,'' Singh said.

India, he said, has been cautioning the world against this regression into medieval barbarism.

The minister said the Taliban's ideological orientation was responsible for ``the Taliban territories emerging as the world's principal center of international terrorism, illicit drugs and violation of human rights, especially those of women.''

The Japanese government added its voice Friday to international protests over the destruction of statues.

``The Japanese government is deeply concerned,'' said Kazuhiko Koshikawa, spokesman for Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori.

``If they are ruined, it would be an immeasurable loss,'' he said. ``The Japanese government hopes that Taliban will review such a decision and take appropriate measures.''


Updated: 3-3-2001

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