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China flays Taliban action on statues

(Washington, March 7): US Secretary of State Colin Powell has deplored the destruction of ancient Buddhist and other statues by the Taliban in Afghanistan calling it a "horrible act", "a tragedy" and "a crime against humankind".

"It’s horrible; it is a tragedy. It is a crime against humankind, and I deplore it," he said at joint press conference with Swedish Foreign Minister and President of the European Union here yesterday.

He said he did not know the extent of the damage at that time and so he did not know whether the two major Buddhas had been taken down totally.

The demolition of two giant stone monoliths of Buddha was stopped yesterday during the Muslim festival of Id- ul-Adha, but a Taliban official said their destruction was a certainty.

Beijing: Ending a week-long silence, China on Wednesday half-heartedly joined the growing international condemnation of Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban’s wanton destruction of priceless Buddhist statues.

"We have taken note of the relevant reports," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao said while taking refuge under an earlier statement made by the state-run Buddhist Association of China (BAC).

Taliban’s supreme leader Mullah Omar dismissed the criticism of his destruction call and said Afghan Muslims should be proud of smashing the Buddhist statues.

Analysts say China’s soft-peddling of the "Bamiyan issue’ may have been forced by the Taliban’s potential to export terrorism to China’s restive province of Xinjiang, where Muslims are hoping to create a separate state.

"We will also be especially sensitive to see how this build-up relates to its situation with Taiwan, whether it presents any new threat to Taiwan, and we will look at that carefully," he added.

United Nations: The UN Security Council has asked Taliban regime to stop the destruction of non-Islamic shrines and artifacts across Afghanistan, saying the decision of the Islamic militia had led to "incomprehensible and wanton acts of violence on the cultural heritage."

In a statement, the council said the United Nations had not given up the hope of saving the priceless statues. The council President, Ambassador Volodymyr Yu Yelchenko of Ukrain, who read the statement to mediapersons, said the Taliban had started destroying the statues, but no confirmation had been received that they have actually been destroyed.

Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Museum of New York has reportedly offered to remove the statues from Afghanistan at its own cost but so far, the Taliban have not reacted positively.


Updated: 8-3-2001

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