UNESCO warns over risk to Libya heritage sites
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Last Updated: Friday, October 21, 2011, 22:52
  
Paris: Libya's ancient sites and cultural treasures have emerged largely unscathed from the country's conflict, UNESCO said on Friday, but are at even more risk of damage and looting now that fighting has ended.

"The situation is relatively satisfying, in other words there were no major catastrophes... but risks remain," the UN cultural organisation's assistant director Francesco Bandarin said during a one-day Paris conference on Libya.

But he warned that based on past experience the country's historic sites and treasures could actually be at more risk since the conflict ended with yesterday's death of ex-strongman Muammar Gaddafi.

"We saw in other cases, like in Iraq and Afghanistan, that it is the post-conflict that is the most dangerous because there are a lot of weapons, a lot of armed groups, a lot of instability," he said.

"This is when looting begins, so Libya must be helped right away to organise itself, otherwise we risk having cases like we did in Afghanistan or Iraq."

At a crossroads of ancient Mediterranean cultures, Libya is home to five UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the ruins of Leptis Magna, a prominent city in the Roman empire, and of Cyrene, one of the principal cities of the ancient Greek world.

Bandarin said none of the major sites appeared to have been damaged during the conflict, thanks in part to UNESCO working with NATO forces to ensure air strikes did not target heritage areas.

"Even in the areas that were very, very close to military attacks there was no major damage, thanks as well to the knowledge NATO armed forces had of these sites," he said.

Experts said, however, there was particular concern over one of Libya's World Heritage Sites, the rock art of Tadrart Acacus featuring thousands of cave paintings dating from as far back as 12,000 BC, because no one had yet been able to verify the isolated sites near the Algerian border.

PTI


First Published: Friday, October 21, 2011, 22:52


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