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Last Updated: Friday, 11 June, 2004, 18:21 GMT 19:21 UK
US fears over Iraqi heritage site
The site of the ancient city of Babylon
Babylon was home to one of the ancient world's Seven Wonders
Top US officials in Iraq have launched an investigation to find out whether coalition military operations have damaged the remains of ancient Babylon.

Coalition administrator Paul Bremer and military commander Lt Gen Ricardo Sanchez have said they will send a team of experts to assess the site.

They have ordered all contractors working in the area, some 50 miles south of Baghdad, to stop work.

Babylon's Hanging Gardens were among the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

The legendary gardens featured water diverted from mountain streams cascading down artificial hills built upon stone vaults.

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But fears that military activity in Camp Alpha, set up to provide security in the area, has damaged city remains, have prompted authorities to order all troops to leave.
The inner walls of the city of Babylon
A double fortified wall enclosed the city, protecting it from attack

The investigation follows the advice of a team of archaeologists and Iraqi cultural experts who visited the ancient site, rebuilt by Nebuchadnezzar II in the sixth century BC.

Officials said that in future, any activity around the site of Babylon would take place only after close consultation with the Iraqi State Board of Antiquities.

At the height of its power, Babylon was an awe-inspiring sight, with two sets of fortified walls surrounding massive palaces and religious buildings.

It became one of the most important cities in Mesopotamia, one of the cradles of human civilisation.

Iraq is home to 10,000 archaeological sites.

Their value was recognised by a UN Security Council resolution passed this week, underlining the importance of respecting the country's historical and cultural heritage.

Iraqi, Arab and Western experts are expected to meet in Jordan next week to discuss how to protect and develop key sites.

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