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Last Updated: Friday, 14 April 2006, 03:36 GMT 04:36 UK
US marines offer Babylon apology
By Jonathan Charles
BBC World affairs correspondent

The inner walls of the city of Babylon
Babylon was home to one of the ancient world's Seven Wonders
A senior US marine officer says he is willing to apologise for the damage caused by his troops to the ancient Iraqi site of Babylon.

US forces built a helicopter pad on the ancient ruins and filled their sandbags with archaeological material in the months following the 2003 invasion.

Colonel Coleman was chief of staff at Babylon when it was occupied by the First Marine Expeditionary Force.

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

Roof collapsed

Col Coleman told the BBC that if the Iraqis wanted an apology for the destruction caused by his men he was willing to give one.

The 2,000 troops who were deployed there did immense damage as they set up camp amidst the ruins of old temples.

A helicopter pad was constructed at the site. The vibration from landings led the roof of one building to collapse.

The soldiers also filled their sandbags with archaeological artefacts, just because they were lying around and easy to pick up.

The head of the Iraqi State Board for Heritage and Antiquities, Donny George, is angry and says the mess will take decades to sort out.

Col Coleman argues that whatever his troops did, the alternative would have been far worse.

If they hadn't moved in, Babylon would have been left at the mercy of looters, he says.

Babylon is regarded by many as the cradle of civilisation

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