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US urges Taliban to halt destruction of statues

WASHINGTON (March 7): The United States has joined international efforts in urging Taliban to halt the destruction of Afghanistan's ancient statues, "an important part of the world's cultural legacy and the cultural heritage of Afghanistan."

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher made this observation Monday when asked as to how the US would deal with the Taliban's destruction of the 2,000-year-old Buddha statues in the Afghan valley of Bamiyan.

Boucher said, "We have raised our strong concerns in any number of ways. We have raised them directly with the Taliban through their representatives in Islamabad. Many other governments, including Pakistan and Iran, have also weighed in with the Taliban to try to halt the planned destruction."

In reply to a question about the possibility of slapping sanction on the Taliban regime, he said, "There are a number of sanctions already internationally through the United Nations and a lot of restrictions on US interaction from the United States. But what you have here is the international community really expressing very, very strongly the will, including a lot of governments of Muslim states, including the Islamic Conference, and international organisations, and we hope that this weight of world opinion will be taken seriously by the Taliban."

According to some press reports, he pointed out, "the destruction of statues has already begun, but we are not able to confirm whether that is the case. We note that a large number of countries, including Iran, Pakistan, Russia, France, Germany, Greece, Japan, Italy, Sri Lanka and Thailand, have voiced their strong concern over the Taliban decision."

He said Afghanistan's ancient statues were "an important part of the world's cultural legacy and the cultural heritage of Afghanistan."

He quoted press reports to say that the Islamic Education Scientific and Cultural Organisation, which is a branch of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC), had urged the Taliban to refrain from demolishing the statues and monuments in Afghanistan which constituted, in their words, "a universal human heritage."

Boucher noted that while the U.S. was concerned about statues, it had also been very concerned about the deepening plight of the Afghan people. They were facing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, for which the Taliban were largely responsible.

"In the face of the humanitarian crisis and the growing death toll, the United States has donated, and will continue to donate, emergency humanitarian relief to the Afghan people. For the past two years, the United States has been the world's largest single donor of humanitarian aid to the Afghans," he added.

Asked as to how the Taliban was responsible for the humanitarian crisis, he said, "their fighting -- their policies, the fighting, the conduct of the government, have a lot to do with the suffering of the people."


Updated: 6-3-2001

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