August 28, 2004
IRAN'S national heritage organisation offered today to pay for and carry out repairs to the mausoleum of Imam Ali, badly damaged during weeks of fighting in the central Iraqi city of Najaf.
Quoted in the local press, the head of the body's department for religious heritage said the body was "ready to send workers and meet all costs" involved in restoring one of Shiite Islam's holiest sites.
Hojatoleslam Hossen Shahmoradi nevertheless condemned what he said was a "ruthless" assault on the shrine of the father of Shiism by US-led forces.
Several parts of the mausoleum were badly damaged during three weeks of clashes in Najaf between fighters of the Mehdi army loyal to rebellious Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and US-led forces battling the uprising.
The site is a popular destination for pilgrims from Iran, where some 90 per cent of the population are Shiite Muslims.