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Babylon's archaeological gems damaged by US forces

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The ancient city of Babylon, one of the world's most important architectural sites, has become another casualty of the war in Iraq.

According to an independent report by the British Museum, US-led coalition forces using the area as a military depot have substantially damaged many of the remains.

Among the archaeological jewels to have been ruined are ornamental dragons on the world-famous Ishtar Gate, the surface of a processional pavement dating back to 6BC and bricks inscribed with the name of King Nebuchadnezzar - the man behind the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

Anti-tank trenches, the movement of heavy vehicles and fuel contamination have all added to the damage to the ancient city, which was only rediscovered 150 years ago.

John Curtis, the report's author and an expert on the ancient Near East, is pointing the finger at US and Polish forces who have occupied the historic site since 2003.

A spokesman for Poland's Defence Ministry has publicly denied the charges and has stated that its troops never made 'any efforts to strengthen the security of Camp Babylon without consulting Iraq's monument preservation authorities'.

Following a handover on Friday, those authorities have now retaken control of the camp.

However, Curtis believes further studies of the site should still be made to determine the full extent of the damage.

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