Sri Lanka 'to reconstruct Afghan Buddhas'

Sri Lanka is to offer to buy the debris of the giant statues of Buddha destroyed by Afghanistan's Taliban regime and rebuild them there.

Sri Lanka is to offer to buy the debris of the giant statues of Buddha destroyed by Afghanistan's Taliban regime and rebuild them there.

President Chandrika Kumaratunga will make the proposal when she returns from her European tour.

The predominantly Buddhist country joined international outrage over the Taliban's demolition of two towering statues of Buddha in Afghanistan's central Bamiyan province.

The statues, hewn out of a cliff in the 3rd to 5th centuries, were 120ft and 170ft high. The larger figure was believed to be the world's tallest Buddha.

The Prime Minister's adviser Lakshman Jayakody said funds would be raised from international organizations such as UNESCO.

The order to destroy the statues, given by Mullah Mohammed Omar, the Taliban's reclusive leader, also condemned to destruction all other pre-Islamic statues in Afghanistan.

Sri Lanka has been active in the movement to save the cultural treasures. Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar travelled to Pakistan, Taliban's closest ally, to lobby for the preservation of the giant Buddhas.

Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayaka has also visited Pakistan with an offer to purchase smaller sculptures in the Afghan museum.

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