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Security Council criticizes Taliban decree

The UN Security Council on 6 March joined other UN agencies, governments and religious and cultural organizations in condemning the decision by Afghanistan's Taliban regime to destroy pre-Islamic relics.

The council called the action an "incomprehensible and wanton" act of violence against cultural heritage in the country, and urged the Taliban to end the destruction of what it called an important part "of the world's cultural treasure".

Taliban envoy Abdul Salam Zaeef has suggested that there is still a chance to save some of the statues if either allies of the regime or Muslim scholars issue an appeal for the destruction to stop. The Taliban claims to have temporarily halted shelling of famous Buddha statues in honor of a religious holiday.

Zaeef said on 7 March the giant statues have not been completely razed yet. "Twenty-five percent of the two huge statues in Bamiyan has been destroyed," he said. "I am not hopeful and not disappointed about these statues, whether the destruction will be stopped or will continue, but maybe, if there is a message from religious scholars of the Arab world, it may help".

UNESCO urged Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to intervene and make an attempt to persuade the Taliban leaders not to destroy the Buddhist statues . Sri Lanka, on the other hand has offered to finance a possible international operation to rescue the statues.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has denounced the Taliban for its actions, saying that Cambodia "strongly condemns the destruction of cultural heritage belonging to any nations and religion.

UN special envoy to Afghanistan Pierre Lafrance reportedly said on 7 March that there is little hope of persuading the Taliban to preserve the country's statues, since the militia has shown little interest in reversing its decree. Lafrance did say, however, that "very reliable" sources had indicated that the famous Buddha statues were not damaged to the extent Taliban leaders have claimed.

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