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
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.