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Government sued over oil pipeline destroying ancient Babil fortress

By Afrah Shawqi

BAGHDAD, March 27, 2012 (AKnews) - The federal government and other authorities are being sued to prevent an oil project from extending a pipeline through the wall of the Babil Fortress, a site considered as an archaeological treasure.

The General Authority for Antiquities and Heritage in Iraq revealed yesterday their lawsuit filed in Babil three days ago, against the oil projects committee to prevent the further destruction of the 1,400-year-old historic castle.

The authority has is suing the Shiite, Christian and Sunni Endowments, the secretariat of Baghdad, the local government in Babil and others for trespassing on the archaeological site, also known as Babylon.

The Iraqi Oil Ministry has started building a strategic pipeline to export oil through six provinces at the center and south of the country, which will pass through the fortress.

"Penetrating the wall of the Fortress will cause direct damage to large parts of the castle and could lead to its demolition," Qais Hussein Rashid, chairman of the independent heritage organization, told AKnews.

"It will also be exposed to the dangers of environmental pollution and exclude Babil from the World Heritage List.

"Babil police have been trying for days to prevent the employees from continuing their work, even resulting in clashes but this did not stop the work."

The Babil fortress has lasted through the Mesopotamia, Islamic, Assyrian and Roman empires, and is located in the former city-state of ancient Mesopotamia, 85km south of Baghdad.

Hussein said many previous demands were sent to the Oil Ministry to prevent it from extending the pipe through the Babil Fortress.

The group also sent similar demands to the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities and to the Office of the Prime Minister, who supports the group's view that the oil projects are illegal and the export route must be changed.

"Some members in the Babil Provincial Council, the Council of Representatives and the Oil Ministry support extending the pipeline, despite our clarification, under the pretext of solving the fuel crisis," said Hussein.

"The law holds accountable anyone responsible for affecting or harming Iraq's archaeology and heritage, and our law suit was based on this law."

Article 9 of the Law of Antiquities Authority states that archeological sites are considered strategic projects and should not be trespassed for any reason.

On Monday, the Tourism and Antiquities commission in the Iraqi Council of Representatives also threatened the filing of a lawsuit in the Federal Supreme Court against the Ministry of Oil if the latter refused to change the course of pipeline.

The chairman of the Antiquities and Heritage Authority Qais Hussein Rashid said in an earlier statement that 3,600 heritage buildings were demolished, leaving only 2,400 out of 6,000 building.

UN officials hope Iraqi leaders have plans for restoring Babylon and making it into a cultural center and the site was opened up to tourism in May, 2009.


:: Article nr. 86868 sent on 29-mar-2012 04:51 ECT


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