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U.N. heritage group suggests searching Pakistan for Afghanartifacts

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March 10, 2001 

  

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia, MAR 9 (AP) - A UNESCO-sponsored heritage group on Friday recommended helping Pakistan search its markets for historical artifacts looted from Afghanistan.


The recommendation came as protests continued over plans by Afghanistan's Taliban rulers to destroy all statues in the country because they are allegedly offensive to Islam.


Two ancient monumental statues of Buddha are among the targets for destruction.


"Pakistan is seeking help from UNESCO to check for cultural materials in Pakistan that originated in Afghanistan," said Lyndel Prott, director of the international standards for cultural heritage at UNESCO, or the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.


"Pakistan is aware of these materials passing through its markets."


Speaking at the end of a four-day conference, she said that the proposal had received the support of the 22-member UNESCO-sponsored group that promotes the return of cultural artifacts to their country of origin.


Prott added that Pakistan's delegates to the UN-sponsored meeting claimed that "most" of the Buddhist statues threatened with destruction by the Taliban are forgeries and the genuine artifacts were pillaged during years of warfare.


Meanwhile, Thailand's Senate protested the Taliban's plan to destroy the statues and called on six Muslim countries to join forces to stop it.


Eighty-nine senators voted for the resolution, with eight opposing it and one abstaining. Thailand is a predominantly Buddhist nation.


Senator Charoen Khanthawong said he would send letters seeking cooperation from Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Indonesia and Malaysia to save "the world's cultural heritage."


"I will send letters to the embassies of those countries to forward my request to the Taliban leaders to think twice and be patient before destroying those precious statues," Charoen said.


The Thai Foreign Ministry last week issued a statement saying it was "shocked and deeply dismayed by the decision to demolish the ancient rock-cut statues and artifacts of Lord Buddha at Bamiyan province in Afghanistan."



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