UNESCO warns over risk to Libya heritage sites
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
"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.
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