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Last Updated: Monday, 16 June, 2003, 07:09 GMT 08:09 UK
UN helps rebuild Afghan culture
By Lawrence Pollard
BBC arts correspondent

Site of the Buddha statues at Bamiyan
Taleban destroyed much of Afghanistan's cultural heritage
The cultural arm of the United Nations, Unesco, is considering plans to repair the damage done to the cultural heritage of Afghanistan at a three-day conference starting on Monday in Paris.

It aims to co-ordinate international efforts over Kabul Museum and the possibility of restoring the site at Bamiyan where giant statues of the Buddha were destroyed.

It will also look at many smaller conservation and excavation projects being carried out in Afghanistan by archaeologists from all over the world.

The conference was originally planned for Kabul but was moved to Paris because of the unstable situation in the Afghan capital.

And that gives a good idea of how huge the task facing Unesco really is.

The basic aspiration is that culture can serve as a rallying point for nation-building - in practice neither the finances nor the security conditions seem favourable.

But Unesco can and will be drawing up a strategy for what needs to be done, based on repair, protection and finance.

It wants better co-ordination of projects and more of the promised finances.

The distance still to travel is enormous.

'Replica Buddha statues'

The Kabul Museum has no roof and may have to be relocated, and the remaining 30% of its collection which has not been destroyed has to remain in secret storage.

Another headline issue is Bamiyan, the site of the world famous rock statues of the Buddha, blown up by the Taleban in 2001.

There are ambitious plans to rebuild them as replicas, but much more basic and urgent is the shoring up of the cliff face, which is in danger of collapsing.

Remaining fragments of the statues need to be collected and protected.

The woeful ongoing situation of open archaeological sites, which are being systematically plundered by antique smugglers, will be another priority issue.

Afghan war 'far from over'
09 May 03  |  South Asia
Afghanistan 'moves to stability'
01 May 03  |  South Asia
Country profile: Afghanistan
02 May 03  |  Country profiles

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