UNITED NATIONS, July 3 (UPI) -- The president of the U.N. General Assembly condemned attacks on protected heritage sites in northern Mali by Islamic militants.
The 21-member World Heritage Committee, which designates the sites listed as World Heritage Sites, last week accepted a request from the government in Mali to place Timbuktu and the Tomb of Askia on a list of endangered sites.
The World Heritage Sites in Mali were attacked by anti-government forces in May. The committee, during an early June meeting, called on Mali's neighbors to work to prevent trafficking of objects that could be looted from the historic sites.
A spokesman for al-Qaida affiliate Ansar Dine confirmed this week rebel forces stormed the historic mosques and mausoleums in Timbuktu. The group said it was nearly finished with its objective of destroying sites in the region that were in violation of Islamic law.
Nassir Abdulaziz al-Nasser, president of the U.N. General Assembly, called on all parties to refrain from violence and return to the negotiating table. In a statement issued through his spokesman, Nasser stressed "the necessity of preserving Mali's cultural and historical heritage."
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon this week expressed support for efforts by the Economic Community of West African States to find a resolution to the crisis. ECOWAS had requested U.N. approval to send forces into Mali.