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Conference Set On Rebuilding Afghan Buddha Statues

One of the Buddha statues before the destruction by the Taliban

One of the Buddha statues before the destruction by the Taliban

KABUL -- An international conference to help reconstruct Afghanistan's ancient Buddha statues destroyed by the Taliban will be held in Kabul, RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan reports.

The Taliban regime demolished the towering 1,500-year-old stone Buddhas in March 2001 because they were considered to be idolic.

The Afghan Information and Culture Ministry said that in cooperation from UNESCO it is rebuilding the walls that once surrounded the statues, which are located in the central Bamiyan Province and are 55 and 37 meters high, respectively.

Kabul authorities said the conference -- slated to be held early next year -- will help develop a comprehensive plan to rebuild the sculptures and discuss the financial and technical aspects of the project.

UN officials on November 5 called on the international community to aid the Afghan government in rebuilding the monuments.

Reconstruction of the smaller of the two Buddhas is in its first phase. But officials said the project cannot be completed without foreign funding.

The Afghan government said a preliminary effort to reconstruct the statues began shortly after the fall of the Taliban regime, but the project struggled to make progress because of poor security and logistical difficulties due to the mountainous terrain where the statues are located.

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