- US urges Taliban to halt destruction of statues
WASHINGTON (March 7): The United States has joined international
efforts in urging Taliban to halt the destruction of Afghanistan's ancient statues,
"an important part of the world's cultural legacy and the cultural heritage of
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher made this observation Monday
when asked as to how the US would deal with the Taliban's destruction of the
2,000-year-old Buddha statues in the Afghan valley of Bamiyan.
Boucher said, "We have raised our strong concerns in any number of
ways. We have raised them directly with the Taliban through their representatives in
Islamabad. Many other governments, including Pakistan and Iran, have also weighed in with
the Taliban to try to halt the planned destruction."
In reply to a question about the possibility of slapping sanction on
the Taliban regime, he said, "There are a number of sanctions already internationally
through the United Nations and a lot of restrictions on US interaction from the United
States. But what you have here is the international community really expressing very, very
strongly the will, including a lot of governments of Muslim states, including the Islamic
Conference, and international organisations, and we hope that this weight of world opinion
will be taken seriously by the Taliban."
According to some press reports, he pointed out, "the destruction
of statues has already begun, but we are not able to confirm whether that is the case. We
note that a large number of countries, including Iran, Pakistan, Russia, France, Germany,
Greece, Japan, Italy, Sri Lanka and Thailand, have voiced their strong concern over the
He said Afghanistan's ancient statues were "an important part of
the world's cultural legacy and the cultural heritage of Afghanistan."
He quoted press reports to say that the Islamic Education Scientific
and Cultural Organisation, which is a branch of the Organisation of Islamic Conference
(OIC), had urged the Taliban to refrain from demolishing the statues and monuments in
Afghanistan which constituted, in their words, "a universal human heritage."
Boucher noted that while the U.S. was concerned about statues, it had
also been very concerned about the deepening plight of the Afghan people. They were facing
an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, for which the Taliban were largely responsible.
"In the face of the humanitarian crisis and the growing death
toll, the United States has donated, and will continue to donate, emergency humanitarian
relief to the Afghan people. For the past two years, the United States has been the
world's largest single donor of humanitarian aid to the Afghans," he added.
Asked as to how the Taliban was responsible for the humanitarian
crisis, he said, "their fighting -- their policies, the fighting, the conduct of the
government, have a lot to do with the suffering of the people."