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Dalai Lama "Deeply Concerned" About Destruction of Afghan Buddha Statues

[WTN-L World Tibet Network News. Published by The Canada Tibet Committee. Issue ID: 01/03/05; March 5, 2001.]

NEW DELHI, March 4 (AFP) - Buddhism's most prominent leader, the Dalai Lama, has said he was "deeply concerned" about the destruction of the two statues of Buddha in Afghanistan's Bamiyan province by the ruling Taliban.

"I am deeply concerned about the possible destruction of the Bamiyan statues of the Buddha at a time when there is closer understanding and better harmony among different religions of the world," the Times of India on Sunday quoted the Dalai Lama as saying.

"As a Buddhist, I feel it is unfortunate that objects of worship are targets of destruction.

"... Even though the destruction of the statues maybe for religious reasons, I believe they are of historical importance not only to the people of Afghanistan but to the world at large," the Tibetan leader was quoted as saying.

A storm of international protest erupted last week when the Taliban militia said they had started rocketing the Bamiyan Buddhas, which stand 50 meters (165 feet) and 34.5 meters tall.

Carved into a sandstone mountain near the provincial capital between the second and fifth centuries AD, the taller figure is the largest standing Buddha in the world.

Taliban Supreme Leader Mulla Mohammad Omar last week said his decree ordering their destruction was in line with a fatwa from local Islamic clerics designed to prevent the worshipping of "false idols."

On Saturday, Afghanistan's minister of information and culture Mawlawi Qudratullah Jamal said two thirds of Afghanistan's statues had already been destroyed and the rest, including the Bamiyan Buddhas, would be finished off early this week.

Jamal's statement came even as a large number of countries including China and Islamic nations urged the Taliban to abandon its campaign to destroy the country's pre-Islamic statues.

UNESCO special envoy Pierre Lafrance was expected to reach Kandahar Sunday in a last-gasp effort to save the statues.


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