Iraq's ancient city of Babylon is suffering severe damage because of the US occupation and the establishment of an American military base in the famous world heritage site, a UNESCO report has
"During their presence in Babylon, the (US-led Multi-National Force) MNF-I and contractors employed by them directly caused major damage to the city," said the report released on Thursday, July 9.
The report cited the "digging, cutting, scraping and leveling" operations in the city to establish a US military base.
A helicopter pad, roads and parking lots were built, and heavy vehicles devastated ancient brick roads, it said.
"The use of Babylon as a military base was a grave encroachment on this internationally known archeological site."
The construction operations left the symbolic dragon-snakes adorning many of the structures partly smashed, said UNESCO.
The Ishtar Gate and Processional Way were also among key structures damaged.
"In view of Babylon's historical and archaeological significance, recent allegations of damage to the site during its military use were particularly serious," said Mohamed Djelid, director of UNESCO's Office for Iraq.
Babylon, a Mesopotamian city considered one of the cradles of human civilization, was the capital of Iraq during the ruling two renowned kings of antiquity -- Hammurabi (1792-1750 BC) and Nebuchadnezzar (604-562 BC), who built the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.
The city, located about 90 kilometers (50 miles) south of Baghdad, is one of the world's greatest archaeological sites.
It has been listed as a world heritage site since 1935.
UNESCO blasted the US troops for failing to stop the mass plunder of the city's treasures while under their control.
"The archaeological city was plundered during the war in 2003," the UN agency said.
"Contents of the Nebuchadnezzar and Hammurabi museums and of the Babylon Library and Archive were stolen and destroyed."
The US-led forces left Babylon in December 2004, handing it to the Iraqi State Board of Antiquities and Heritage (SBAH).
UNESCO called for taking an urgent action to repair the damage caused to the world heritage site.
"Urgent conservation work should be undertaken by the SBAH," said the report.
It cited the Ninmakh Temple, the Nabu-sha-Harre Temple, the Ishtar Temple, the Babylonian Houses and the southern palace of Nebuchadnezzar as among the areas that need "urgent attention".
"Without pointing fingers, we now have a clear picture of the situation," said Djelid.
"It provides the starting-point for the major challenge of restoration and conservation."
Click to read the whole report.