NEW YORK, Feb 6 (KUNA) -- Despite Syria's stalling on the political,
humanitarian, and other fronts, a UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural
Organization (UNESCO) official has hailed Damascus for protecting the cultural
artifacts of 34 museums from looting.
Damascus' protection of cultural artifacts is the "only piece of good news"
in safeguarding the heritage of the country during the three-year conflict,
UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Culture Francesco Bandarin told a news
conference, late on Wednesday.
He explained that the Syrian Government moved the majority of the 34
national museums' contents into safe havens, warning, however, that the
country's archeological sites continue to be illegally excavated for more
cultural artifacts to be sold overseas for huge profit.
"The damage to museums is less important than it would have been otherwise
because of this preventive action, which of course we praise and consider
very, very important," he said.
He admitted that no one from UNESCO has been able to verify that the
National Directorate of Antiquities and Museums in Syria (DGAM) transported
the contents, nor speak of their current state or safety, but a presentation
by DGAM Director Maamoun Abdel-Karim in Paris last summer was "convincing
He said UNESCO has launched a three-prong project, funded by 2.5 million
Euros from the European Union, to create a database of Syrian works; to fight
illicit trafficking with support from INTERPOL, local police, and customs
officials; and to raise awareness of the cultural artifacts and the dangers of
their trafficking among the local and international communities.
He said Lebanon is the number one country traffickers would smuggle the
Bandarin expressed hope that the new film 'The Monuments Men,' which deals
with attempts to save paintings and other cultural artifacts from destruction
and looting during World War II and scheduled to open in theatres this Friday
will bring the issue to the forefront.
"Sometimes Hollywood is more powerful than all the UN put together in
raising this attention," he said.
In a related matter, UNESCO also announced on Wednesday the completion of
an emergency Mission to launch rehabilitation of the Islamic Arts Museum of
Cairo after a blast on January 24 brought down walls of buildings housing both
the Museum and the National Library at Bab el Khalq.
The Paris-based Agency said that "despite the shocking first impressions of
destruction inside and outside the building, the Mission recorded that the
structural stability of the building seems not to have been endangered," and
as for the Archive Museum of the National Library at Bab el Khalq, "most of
the damage can be quite easily cleaned and restored," warning however that
this will take "many months of work."(end)
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