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Protection of Iraqi Heritage a Concern at WHC Session

Participants of the current 28th Session of the World Heritage Convention (WHC) showed great concern over cultural heritage in the post-war Iraq, urging the international community to help the country safeguard the relics.

Omer El-amin, first secretary from the Sudanese Embassy in China, urged those who have invaded Iraq to protect cultural and natural heritage in the occupied country. This heritage is not recoverable if it is destroyed, he said.

According to Abdul Aziz Hameed, president of the State Board of Antiquities and Heritage of Iraq, the National Museum of Iraq, the11th largest in the world, lost 15,000 relics during the war.

Only 5,000 were recovered by the museum and another 5,000 were expected to be sent back to Iraq from Europe and the United States, while the whereabouts of the other 5,000 remained unknown, he noted.

People can possibly find these relics that belong to the museum and have codes, but it is difficult to recover those that were still underground and unknown, if they were stolen away, he said, adding that there are at least more than 10,000 cultural heritage yet to be excavated.

The Tigris and Euphrates Area, in the present day Iraq, is home to one of the oldest civilizations in the world, which could be traced back to over 5,000 B.C., where there were the world's oldest schools, wheel carts, vessel, characters and law codes.

UNESCO has paid great attention to the safeguarding of heritage in Iraq, according to Mounir Bouchenaki, assistant director-general for culture of UNESCO. Since the war ended, UNESCO has sent experts to Iraq to study these relics, set up a databank, and work out a plan for the protection and repair of the existing heritage in this war-torn country.

He expressed the hope that Iraq's heritage could be protected as much as possible, with international assistance, so as to salvage the memory of the human civilization.
(Xinhua News Agency July 7, 2004)


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