Baghdad: UNESCO chief Irina Bokova Sunday voiced support for the Iraqi government against "barbaric" destruction of the Iraqi cultural heritage, as the Sunni radical group Islamic State (IS) destroyed several ancient sites in the country.
"I've come here to represent UNESCO with strong message of support and solidarity with Iraqi people in a very difficult and challenging time. Iraq and Iraqi people possess one of the richest culture heritage which belong to the whole humanity," Bokova, the Director General of UNESCO, told a joint press conference with Iraqi ministers of education and antiquities at the building of the National Museum in Baghdad, Xinhua reported.
"Iraq has thousands of temples, of buildings, of archeological sites, of objects, that represent a treasure for humanity," Bokova said.
"We cannot agree that this treasure, this legacy of human civilisation, is being destroyed by the most barbaric manner," Bokova added.
"We have to act, we don't have time to lose, because the extremists are trying to erase the identity, because they know if there is no identity, there is no memory and no history, and we think that this is not acceptable," she said.
She added that her visit to Iraq includes holding talks with the Iraqi President Fuad Masoum and the Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, in addition to the ministers of antiquities and education to discuss "how UNESCO could continue to support the government and the Iraqi people in this very difficult time".
For his part, Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Adel Shirshab said that Iraq was keen to enhance cooperation with UNESCO to benefit from its technical expertise in order to protect the country's antiquities.
"Cooperation with UNESCO would enable us to bring back many of our smuggled antiquities, in addition to benefit from their expertise by holding training and developing courses," Shirshab said.
Bokova arrived in Baghdad on a one-day official visit to discuss the attacks against the country's cultural heritage and diversity with Iraqi leaders and officials.