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Thursday, 20 December, 2001, 12:38 GMT
'Looted' Afghan art offered to museum
Sydney is home to the Art Gallery of New South Wales
Sydney is home to the Art Gallery of New South Wales
Rare works of Buddhist art from Afghanistan have been offered to Australia's largest art gallery.

The Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, turned down the chance of buying the pieces over fears they had been looted from Kabul when the Taleban were ousted from power.

The gallery's director, Edmund Capon, said he was approached by two dealers with rare Buddha carvings in the Gandharan style, a school of carving popular in northern India, Pakistan and Afghanistan, about 2,000 years ago.

One item had been offered as recently as Wednesday, he said.

"This thing, you know, if it had been around in the West, we'd know about it," added Capon.

The Taleban ignored international pressure not to blow up statues
The Taleban ignored international pressure not to blow up statues
"It's quite clear it is a recent arrival. It's a rather complicated object. I would imagine it's probably been looted from the Kabul museum."

Capone said it was "obvious" that "looting" is taking place and some pieces are on the international black market.

Outrage

Earlier this year the Taleban authorities came under intense pressure after their decision to destroy three Buddhist statues.

The 16-metre long reclining Buddha at the temple in Tape-Sardar in Ghazni province was destroyed in March alongside another famous statue depicting Buddha with his foot on a calf.

The statues were built about 1,500 years ago at the same time as the twin Bamiyan statues, the world's largest, which were also blown up.

The fundamentalist Taleban authorities had ruled that the statues were anti-Islamic.

The Art Gallery of New South Wales was established in 1874.

It contains works of art from Australia, Europe and Asia, with paintings, prints, sculptures, drawings, photographs and watercolours on display.

See also:

14 Mar 01 | South Asia
Bosnia asks for ruined Buddhas
05 Mar 01 | Media reports
Bamiyan statues: World reaction
26 Feb 01 | South Asia
Afghan statues face destruction
18 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
Australia checks for stolen Nazi art
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