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Lankan PM to travel to Pak in bid to save statues

COLOMBO (March 9): Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayaka said on Thursday he will travel to Pakistan this weekend in an attempt to save Buddhist statues in Afghanistan from destruction.

Wickremanayaka said Germany was moving a resolution co-sponsored by Sri Lanka urging the U.N. General Assembly to save the statues.

"We are inviting the international community to react to the situation in Afghanistan and its implications for international peace and security," Wickremanayaka told Parliament. "If the Taliban does not want to retain these statues, Sri Lanka is willing to take them and preserve them for posterity."

Wickremanayaka said he would join Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar in Pakistan on Saturday to try to save the statues held sacred by Sri Lankans, a majority of whom are Buddhists. Pakistan is Afghanistan's southern neighbor.

"We are prepared to save them from this abominable acts of destruction," he said.

The Taliban's supreme leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, ordered the destruction of the Buddhas and other pre-Islamic statues in Afghanistan on Feb. 26, saying they were idolatrous.

The ancient Buddhas were carved out of a mountainside in the 3rd and 5th centuries.


Updated: 9-3-2001

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