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Columns and the ancient Temple of Bel are seen in the historical city of Palmyra, Syria, June 11, 2009. Palmyra was damaged by Islamic State militants. — Reuters picColumns and the ancient Temple of Bel are seen in the historical city of Palmyra, Syria, June 11, 2009. Palmyra was damaged by Islamic State militants. — Reuters picABU DHABI, Dec 1 — Five Nobel prize winners called today for urgent international action to protect world heritage sites from the destruction wrought by extremist groups and conflicts.

In an appeal launched on the eve of an international conference in Abu Dhabi, the laureates pointed to the irreparable damage that has been done to some of the world’s most treasured ancient sites in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, and Mali.

“Part of our history has been lost forever, with the goal of fanaticism being to undermine our hope for the future,” they said.

“Urgent action must be taken — the time for powerless expressions of indignation is over.”

The signatories included Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, Liberian President Helen Johnson Sirleaf and former UN chief Kofi Annan.

They also included Nobel literature laureates Orhan Pamuk of Turkey and Mario Vargas Llosa of Peru.

As examples they cited the demolition by the Islamic State group over the past two years of the temples and tower tombs of the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria and the priceless collection of the Mosul Museum in Iraq.

They also recalled the destruction by the Taliban of the ancient Buddha statues of Bamiyan in Afghanistan in 2001 and the damage dealt by Mali’s Ansar al-Dine militia to ancient mausoleums and manuscripts in Timbuktu in 2012-3.

A two-day conference, co-sponsored by France and the United Arab Emirates, opens in Abu Dhabi tomorrow with the aim of establishing a US$100 million (RM447 million) fund to help cover the costs of transporting, safeguarding and restoring damaged or endangered monuments and artefacts. — AFP

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