- Taliban reject UNESCO plea over
- (AFP, March 5, 2001)
KABUL: UNESCO special envoy Pierre
Lafrance on Sunday failed to persuade Afghanistan's Taliban militia to stop the demolition
of the country's pre-Islamic cultural heritage, a report said.
Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmad Mutawakel
said he had detailed discussions with Lafrance in the militia's southern bastion of
Kandahar but could see no reason to stop the destruction, the private Afghan Islamic Press
"I do not see any chance to change
our decision and stop the demolition of these statues," he was quoted as saying after
Lafrance, the former French ambassador to
Iran and Pakistan, was sent Friday from Europe on an emergency mission to persuade the
fundamentalist Islamic militia to stop destroying the country's precious statues.
Mutawakel said the envoy presented him
with a message from UNESCO chief Koichiro Matsuura demanding a halt to the destruction.
"Words fail me to describe adequately
my feelings of consternation and powerlessness as I see the reports of the irreversible
damage that is being done to Afghanistan's exceptional cultural heritage," Matsuura
said last week.
Taliban officials said the destruction,
designed to stop idolatry, was nearly complete despite an international outcry.
"The edict will be implemented
Inshallah (God willing)," Mutawakel said shortly before Lafrance's arrival from
"We would like to see the UNESCO
enovy. It is good that we can explain to him that what we are doing is an internal issue
and we do not want to confront the world."
Afghanistan's most famous monuments are
two statues of Buddha in central Bamiyan province, which stand 50 meters (165 feet) and
34.5 meters tall and were carved into sandstone cliffs between the second and fifth
Officials said Sunday large portions of
them had already been destroyed and the "work" would be finished soon.
Thousands of other ancient statues had
also been destroyed throughout the country in line with the edict issued Monday by Taliban
Supreme Leader Mulla Mohammad Omar, they said.