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Iraq Accused of Sheltering Behind Remains of Ctesiphon Palace


02 April 2003




LONDON, (CAIS) -- Australian military chiefs today accused Iraq of using important historical sites to shield its army from attack.

Defence spokesman Brigadier Mike Hannan said coalition forces had pulled back from attacking Iraqi military vehicles sheltering at the remains of Ctesiphon palace (also known as the Taq-i Kasra, Palace of Khosrow as well as Iwan-e Madaein), a 3rd century CE ancient Iranian site about 35km south of the besieged capital Baghdad.

He released aerial photographs showing lines of Iraqi military vehicles between a museum complex and an ancient arch at Ctesiphon, on the Tigris River.

The blue and white sign that designated the area as an important cultural site under the 1954 Hague Convention was clearly visible on the museum roof.

The United States, Britain, Australia and Iraq are all signatories to the convention, which aims to protect important cultural sites in war time, and Iraq, as the cradle of western civilisation, has numerous antiquities.

Brigadier Hannan said Iraq was using antiquities in the same way that it used human shields and civilian centres like hospitals to inhibit coalition attacks.

He said the Ctesiphon arch was so fragile that the after-shock from a surgical strike on the vehicles could bring it down.

The coalition had not attacked and the vehicles had since moved on.

"In past wars significant cultural sites have been destroyed and lost forever through military actions," Brigadier Hannan said.

"The cultural heritage in Iraq is important to the whole world ... and it's incumbent on Australian forces to protect that heritage.

"This task is made more difficult when Iraqis use important and protected sites to protect military targets."

Ctesiphon, founded by the third Iranian dynasty the Parthians also known as Arsacids, which was the capital of the their Empire as well as the succeeding dynasty, the Sasanid, and remained important until it was sacked by Arabs and the collapse of Persian Empire in 642 CE.



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