BEIJING, March 8 (AFP)--China's government on Thursday joined an international outcry against a decision by Afghanistan's Taliban militia to destroy two famous Buddha figures.

"It is the shared responsibility of all countries in the world to preserve the cultural heritage," foreign ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao said at the ministry's regular press conference.

Zhu's remark came as hope appeared to be running out for the two colossal Buddhas which were carved into sandstone cliffs between the second and fifth centuries AD.

Taliban Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmad Mutawakel on Thursday insisted that a decree by the Taliban's supreme leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, ordering the total destruction of all statues in the country was "irreversible"

"We have said that we would not spare pre-Islamic or post-Islamic Buddhist artifacts," the minister said from the militia's southern stronghold of Kandahar.

Militia officials have said the Bamiyan Buddhas are being destroyed with everything from tanks to dynamite.

Earlier in the day, the leader of China's westernmost Xinjiang region, which is predominantly Muslim, also voiced concern about the Taliban decision.

"The world has many ruins of past civilizations and heritage sites which should be protected and shouldn't be damaged," Abulahat Abdurixit told a press briefing in Beijing, held on the sidelines of an ongoing plenary meeting of parliament.

Last Saturday, a leading Buddhist association became the first Chinese voice to join the outcry against the destruction of the statues.

"Chinese Buddhist circles are concerned about this decision, which deeply offends the feelings of Buddhists," an official with the Buddhist Association of China told the Xinhua news agency. "We urge the Taliban to halt this destructive act immediately."

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