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Spanish design chosen for museum to house Afghanistan's treasures

MYT 8:05:00 AM

KABUL (Reuters) - The winning design for a new museum in Kabul to showcase a growing collection of centuries-old Afghan treasures was selected this week, throwing forward plans sponsors hope will restore Afghanistan's sense of identity after decades of war.

The United States has committed $5 million to the project that will be run by a Spanish architect and includes state-of-the-art security and climate control features that will keep artefacts safe while on display to the Afghan people.

"They (young Afghans) are thirsting for knowledge about their past and this museum is beginning to address those desires," said Nancy Dupree, Director of the Afghanistan Centre in Kabul University.

Afghanistan's national museum was plundered and destroyed during a vicious civil war that raged in the early 1990s in the wake of the Soviet withdrawal. Thousands of works of art were deliberately destroyed by the Taliban in 2001.

Discoveries made at archaeological sites like Mes Aynak, where archaeologists are unearthing a Buddhist temple, statues and other relics, some more than 2,000 years old, will sit alongside treasures restored or recovered over the past decade.

The winning design by Spanish architect AV 62 Arquitectos SLP envisioned pools, gardens and trees to surround the new museum, beating entries by 30 different countries in a competition sponsored by the U.S. embassy in Kabul.

U.S. ambassador Hugo Llorens said the embassy was now seeking a fundraiser to raise money for the project.

(Reporting by Miriam Arghanidiwal; Editing by Jessica Donati and Paul Tait)

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