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Friday, 9 March, 2001, 22:35 GMT
UN condemns Taleban on statues
Afghan Buddha site
The extent of the damage is still not known
The United Nations has strongly rebuked Afghanistan's ruling Taleban for ordering the destruction of the country's ancient Buddhist monuments.

In a resolution, the UN General Assembly said it was appalled at the Taleban's actions.

It said the destruction of two giant Buddhas, carved into a mountainside in the central province of Bamiyan, would be an "irreparable loss for humanity".

We are looking at destroying part of the identity of a society and in that, part of the identity of a person

UN co-ordinator Erik de Mul
But the Taleban says it will go ahead with its decree, issued 11 days ago, to destroy all Buddhist artefacts in the country for being un-Islamic.

Iran's ambassador to the UN called the Taleban's edict narrow-minded and not in accordance with Islamic teaching.

Pakistan's representative also expressed disapproval, but said that by imposing sanctions, the UN had contributed to the Taleban's isolation.

"UN sanctions have been the final straw. We are witnessing a crisis of monumental proportions," said Pakistani envoy Khalid Masood.

Fate unknown

There are conflicting reports about the extent of damage the Taleban authorities have inflicted on two giant Buddhas at Bamiyan in central Afghanistan.

BBC correspondent Susannah Price says it is still not clear whether the colossal statues had been targeted as yet.

Reports quoting the Afghan opposition say the Bamiyan statues had been destroyed by dynamite and were "completely gone".

Candlelight vigil
The Taleban move has led to worldwide protests
But the Taleban said they have yet to complete the work, which they intend to restart now that this week's Muslim festival of Eid has ended.

The UN says the Taleban authorities are sending explosives from Kabul to carry out the threatened demolition.

The UN co-ordinator for Afghanistan, Erik de Mul, said it could take a day or two for the explosives to arrive in Bamiyan, 130km (80 miles) from the capital, and that something dramatic could happen during the weekend.

'Afghans devastated'

He said he joined the majority of Afghans in condemning the move.

"It's not only physical destruction that we are looking at. We are looking at destroying part of the identity of a society and in that, part of the identity of a person," he said.

"So I think it's much more dramatic, hence I think the reaction we received from many Afghans, be them Afghans outside Afghanistan or Afghans inside Afghanistan, they are devastated," he said.

The international community is still trying to persuade the Taleban authorities to reverse their decision.

A parliamentary delegation from Japan has gone to Kandahar, and Pakistan is also planning to send its interior minister.

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Can outside pressure have any effect on Afghanistan's isolationist Taleban movement?Buddha attack
Can the Taleban be swayed by outside pressure?
See also:

06 Mar 01 | South Asia
Little hope for Afghan statues
07 Mar 01 | South Asia
UN condemns statue destruction
03 Mar 01 | South Asia
Pressure on Taleban urged
02 Mar 01 | Europe
Battle to save world treasures
03 Aug 98 | South Asia
Analysis: Who are the Taleban?
05 Mar 01 | Media reports
Bamiyan statues: World reaction
09 Mar 01 | South Asia
Taleban's struggle over statues
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