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Unesco ready to send mission to Mali

05 March 2013, 11:01

New York - Unesco is ready to send experts to Mali to assess damage to cultural treasures in the troubled north as soon as security conditions allow, its director general said on Monday.

Irina Bokova, on a visit to the UN headquarters in New York, told journalists Unesco's action plan for Mali, still was not fully funded.

"We are approaching possible donors," said the chief of the UN Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation.

Bokova has warned that ancient manuscripts from Timbuktu are at risk of being trafficked out of Mali and pledged to help restore the fabled city's heritage damaged by radical Islamists.

Al-Qaeda-linked rebels who seized control of Timbuktu last year caused a global outcry by destroying ancient Muslim saints' shrines they considered idolatrous and burning priceless manuscripts before a French-led military campaign reclaimed the city on January 28.

Most of the city's 13th- and 14th-century manuscripts were smuggled to safety or hidden during the Islamist occupation, say locals and the curators of a South African-sponsored library where many were housed.

But Bokova has said some may still be in danger amid the turmoil gripping northern Mali, where the Islamists have launched a string of recent attacks.

Action plan

South Africa, France, Norway and Luxembourg have voiced support for parts of the Unesco action plan.

She said an expert mission could be sent soon.

"The first moment it is possible, we'll do it. We are ready to send the mission next week," she stressed.

Bokova said that Unesco would rebuild mausoleums, and interms of manuscripts "fortunately a very small part of it, 2 000 to 3 000 have been burnt" of some 300 000 in Timbuktu.

"We want to prevent possible illicit trafficking of the manuscripts because we don't know how many are in the hands of the extremists," she added.

Timbuktu rose to fame in the 14th century as a hub of the gold and salt trades and a centre of Islamic learning.



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