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Islamic nations criticize Taliban’s threat to destroy Buddha statues

April 27, 1997

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) _ Islamic countries on Sunday criticized Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers for threatening to destroy two ancient Buddha statues considered to be the world’s tallest.

``This type of action, which endangers the harmony and friendly coexistence among the various religious followers, is against our point of view,″ said Iran’s ambassador to Sri Lanka, Ali Reza Alamoti.

The Taliban have threatened to destroy the 4th-century statues if they capture Afghanistan’s Bamyan Valley. The Taliban already controls two-thirds of Afgahnistan and has amassed 3,500 soldiers in the neighboring Ghorband Valley.

The Taliban says the statues are against the teachings of Islam, which opposes idol worship.

Sri Lanka’s politically influential Buddhist clergy and its cultural and religious affairs minister, Lakshman Jayakody, have said the demolition of the structures would be a ``treacherous act,″ for which all Buddhists will suffer.

The statues _ one of which is more than 100 feet tall _ are considered to be the largest of Buddha in the standing position.

Last week, the Sri Lankan foreign ministry met diplomats of more than a dozen Islamic countries in Colombo to convey its concern.

``We preach religious tolerance. We advocate moderate islamic objectives, being a multiethnic, multi-religious society,″ said Shamsudeen Abdulla, the Malaysian ambassador.

Of Sri Lanka’s 18 million people, 74 percent are Buddhist.

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