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UNESCO calls for immediate end to fighting in Syria's Palmyra

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PARIS, May 20 (Reuters) - The U.N. agency UNESCO called on Wednesday for an immediate halt to fighting at the ancient World Heritage site of Palmyra in Syria, urging the world to do everything it can to protect the population "and safeguard the unique cultural heritage".

Syrian pro-government militia evacuated citizens from the ancient city of Palmyra on Wednesday after large groups of Islamic State militants infiltrated it, state television reported earlier on Wednesday.

"It is imperative that all parties respect international obligations to protect cultural heritage during conflict, by avoiding direct targeting, as well as use for military purposes," UNESCO Director General Irina Bokova said in a statement. There are fears that the ultra-radical Islamic State militants will destroy Palmyra's ancient, pre-Islamic monuments if they gain access to them. (Reporting by Ingrid Melander; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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