Foreign forces in Iraq have caused severe damage to the site of ancient Babylon, one of the world's most renowned archaeological treasures, and need to leave the area as soon as possible, Iraq's Culture Minister Mofeed al-Jazaeri said."
Heavy equipment, helicopters and other machinery used by Polish-led forces based at Babylon, 100 kilometres south of Baghdad, are causing irreparable harm, Mr Jazaeri said.
" Just their presence, with their heavy equipment, is harmful in and of itself ," the minister told Reuters, saying that helicopters landing and taking off were a particular problem.
Describing anecdotal accounts of the damage, Mr Jazaeri said ancient roofs and walls had collapsed and buildings had decayed.
He also said that workers employed by United States contracting firm Kellogg, Brown & Root (KBR), a subsidiary of Halliburton, had been digging and building in the area around Babylon, causing further damage.
Polish commanders and KBR representatives were not immediately available for comment.
Iraqi officials raised the issue of the Babylon damage in June with the former US governor in Iraq, Paul Bremer, and the former coalition commander, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, who issued a statement saying they were aware of the complaints.