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Karzai Vows to Rebuild Buddhas

April 10, 2002|From Associated Press

BAMIAN, Afghanistan — A year after the Taliban blew up two towering ancient Buddha statues, Afghan interim Prime Minister Hamid Karzai promised Tuesday to rebuild them, calling their destruction "a national tragedy."

Funding the project will be no small task for this nation's bankrupt administration. But Karzai said rebuilding the statues was part of reconstructing Afghanistan, a nation devastated by war for more than two decades.

"The loss of life is something irreparable. You cannot repair that," Karzai said during a five-hour visit to the central Afghan town of Bamian, site of the statues. "But we're going to work on this, and we hope we can have it rebuilt as soon as possible."

Karzai said an Afghan sculptor, who returned this month after fleeing the nation 23 years ago, presented him with a design to reconstruct the figures within five years.

Karzai toured the ruins of the two statues in a convoy with Afghan troops, many of whom also stood guard along dusty roads and hillsides about 80 miles northwest of the capital, Kabul.

It was unclear where the money to rebuild the statues would come from or when the project might begin.

Karzai said his administration had contacted the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization for help. Paris-based UNESCO is responsible for safeguarding the world's cultural heritage.

The Buddhas, one 175 feet tall and the other 120 feet, were carved about 1,600 years ago into a huge cliff overlooking Bamian.

The fundamentalist Taliban movement considered them idolatrous and against the tenets of Islam, so the militia dynamited them a year ago despite an international outcry.

Afghan sculptor Amanulah Haiderzad said the government might rebuild only the larger Buddha and keep the remnants of smaller one as a monument to Taliban barbarity.

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