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Wednesday, 14 March, 2001, 18:33 GMT
Bosnia asks for ruined Buddhas
Buddha at Bamiyan
The Buddhas now lie in ruins, despite international fury
Afghanistan's ruined Buddhas could find a new home - in Bosnia.

The Muslim mayor of the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, has written to the Taleban militia asking for the rubble from the wrecked statues to be sent there for "safe keeping".

The dynamite explosions in Bamiyan were felt in Sarajevo too

Sarajevo Mayor Muhidin Hamamdzic
The giant statues are now believed to be lying in ruins at the foot of the cliff at Bamiyan, where they have stood since the second and fifth century.

Sarajevo Mayor Muhidin Hamamdzic says the destruction has damaged the international image of Islam, and he wants the ruins preseved.

"The dynamite explosions in Bamiyan were felt in Sarajevo too," said the mayor in his letter to the Taleban.

"On behalf of the city of Sarajevo... I express my protest and bitterness over the horrific destruction of the Buddha statues in Afghanistan."

Statue seen from a distance
The statues are now thought to lie in ruins beneath the cliffs
The remains could be kept in Sarajevo "until some better and more normal times," he said.

Mr Hamamdzic also warned the Taleban that their extreme policies were hindering religious tolerance.

"As a Muslim raised in a multi-ethnic city and country, I know that what you are doing actually harms Muslims," he said.

Mr Hamamdzic asked the Taleban authorities to allow the remains to be kept in the Bosnian capital where he said three of the world's major religions - Islam, Christianity, and Judaism - had been practised for centuries.

Wave of protests

The destruction of the statues has been met with a wave of global condemnation, led by India and Pakistan.

Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee described the demolition of the Buddhas in central Bamiyan province as "an act of barbarism".

Pakistan's Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar, who has accused the international community of doing too little, said it was "a tragic disaster".

Muslim nations from Malaysia to the Middle East queued up to stress the attacks on the statues had nothing to do with Islam.

The United Nations has also condemned the destruction, which it had attempted to avert.

The Taleban used explosives to bring down the soaring statues.

Standing at 51m and 36m high, the statues were once a symbol of the religious tolerance that pervaded the region, but no longer.

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See also:

09 Mar 01 | South Asia
UN condemns Taleban on statues
12 Mar 01 | South Asia
Outcry as Buddhas are destroyed
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