Burma's tower plan for Bagan needles UN

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Burma plans to erect a 200ft (60 metre) observation tower that would loom over the venerable temple city of Bagan, despite concerns expressed by the United Nations that it would be jarringly out of scale.

U Khin Maung Latt, the tourism director general, said construction of the Nanmying, which translates as High Palace, could be completed in a year. He said the tower would protect one of South-east Asia's most significant archaeological sites by keeping tourists from climbing on fragile monuments to take snapshots of sunsets.

Sprawling over 40 square kilometres, Bagan is the main tourist attraction in Burma after the golden Shwedagon Pagoda in Rangoon.

Bagan, the ancient capital, was described by the adventurer James Scott as a "pagoda-studded plain" and has more than 2,000 exquisite temples, pagodas and stupas dating from the 11th and 12th centuries.

The UN, which has helped restore some of the earthquake-damaged monuments since 1975, has designated Bagan a World Heritage Site. Preservationists at the UN cultural agency Unesco are alarmed that the tower would detract from the historical setting, a ghost city of monasteries, hidden frescoes, and bell-shaped shrines. U Khin said the tower was inspired by traditional architecture and would "enhance tourism".

The published plans show that the tower, which would be built beside a golf course in the archaeological zone, would resemble a postmodern pagoda crossed with a stunted Seattle space needle.