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Egypt to send envoy to Afghanistan to save statues

(Cairo, Mar 9): EGYPT WILL send a high-level envoy to Afghanistan in a bid to persuade the ruling Taliban militia to reverse their decision to destroy the country's Buddhist statues, Foreign Minister Amr Moussa said on Friday.

Moussa did not name the envoy, but said he would depart in the coming days. He said President Hosni Mubarak had received several appeals to intervene with Taliban, whose leadership decided last week to destroy all ancient statues in Afghanistan as idolatrous and un-Islamic.

On Wednesday, UNESCO director-general Koichiro Matsuura phoned Mubarak and asked him to intercede on behalf of the statues, one of which is a giant Buddha carved into a mountainside at Bamiyam, some 145 km west of Kabul.

Moussa said Taliban have to reconsider their decision, as the statues are "a human heritage that has no effect on Islam in Afghanistan or elsewhere." The foreign minister cited comments by Egypt's chief Muslim cleric, Grand Mufti Nasr Farid Wasel, who has condemned the destruction as wrong and not in accordance with the teachings of Islam.

Other leading Muslim scholars have also condemned the move. Some believe the decision is politically motivated by Taliban's resentment over its international isolation. Egypt does not have diplomatic ties with Taliban, an administration that is recognised by only three states as the government of Afghanistan - Pakistan, UAE and Saudi Arabia. It controls 95 per cent of the country and imposes a strict, conservative interpretation of Islam.


Updated: 9-3-2001

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