Wednesday, March 7, 2001,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Taliban delay shelling Buddha statues

Kabul, March 6
The Taliban have delayed further destruction of two colossal Buddhist statues because of a major Muslim holiday, witnesses said today.

They said more than half of the ancient Buddhas, hewn out of sandstone cliffs, in the central province of Bamiyan had been damaged by constant shelling from Taliban fighters in recent days.

“Because of the Id ul-Adha (feast of the sacrifice) holidays, the work has been called off temporarily,” one traveller told Reuters.

Smashing of the statues, towering 175 feet (53 metres) and 120 feet (36.5 metres), would resume after the holidays, which are expected to last till the weekend, he quoted Taliban officials as saying.

The Taliban’s supreme leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, has brushed aside repeated international appeals to spare the statues, saying that the figures are un-Islamic.

DUBAI: Iranian President Mohammed Khatami, a key leader of the Islamic world, has denounced the Taliban decision to destroy all Buddha statues, describing it as “inhuman and violent”.

Mr Khatami’s remarks came during a telephonic conversation with the Amir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, whose country currently holds the chairmanship of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC).

The Iranian President said the OIC must take note of what was being done in Afghanistan in the “guise of Islam”.

The Amir of Qatar assured Mr Khatami that his country would spare no effort in preventing “this irresponsible act” of the Taliban regime, according to IRNA.

Meanwhile, the Iranian Majlis (Parliament) has termed the Taliban decision to destroy the statues as “counter-cultural and un-Islamic”.

A statement released by the Majlis cultural commission said “regrettably, those who pretend to be paragons of Islam are seen to be committing these acts”.

Iran still recognises the ousted Rabbani regime as the true representative of the Afghan people. Reuters, UNI


Slim hope for statues, says envoy

Islamabad, March 6
The Taliban envoy to Pakistan offered a glimmer of hope today that the giant Buddhist statues could be saved from total destruction if religious scholars intervened.

Mr Abdul Salam Zaeef said in an interview with Reuters Television that the ancient Buddhas in the central province of Bamiyan had been partly destroyed, but that the United Nations should abandon bids to save the historic relics and concentrate on helping starving Afghans.

“I am not hopeful and not disappointed...whether the destruction will be stopped or will continue, but maybe if there is a message from religious scholars of the Arabic world this may help,’’ Mr Zaeef said.

“So far, we have not received any message or proposal which is based on reasons of Sharia (Islamic) law. If there is such a message it will be considered,’’ he added.

Witnesses said earlier today that the Taliban had halted the shelleing of statues for the duration of a major Muslim holiday which is due to end at the weekend.

Mr Zaeef said United Nations efforts to preserve the statues were misguided and that resources should be used to help people in the war-torn country suffering cold weather and a devastating drought.

“The UN should focus on helping and having mercy on the suffering people of Afghanistan who are dying in their hundreds every day because of cold weather and because of unjustified and one-sided sanctions,’’ he said, adding:

“These living people deserve more attention than those non-living things.’’ Reuters

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