Cairo agrees diversion for pyramid motorway

Cairo (AP) - Egypt and the United Nations agreed yesterday to reroute a nearly completed motorway from the Giza Pyramids, saying the cost did not matter when it came to rescuing the only surviving wonders of the ancient world.

The eight-lane motorway, which passes within two miles of the three 4,500- year-old pyramids and the Sphinx, could be dismantled as early as next week, said Abdel-Halim Noureddin, Egypt's chief antiquities official.

The monuments are built of limestone, which is crumbling from erosion and air pollution. UN Educational. Scientific and Cultural Organisation and Egypt experts said the motorway which circles Cairo to alleviate interminable traffic jams - would have further damaged the monuments.

The agreement apparently ends the six-month dispute, though both sides said more study was needed.

The new motorway would wind north of the pyramids, several miles east of the Giza plateau, along the Maryoutiyya canal, according to a statement from Egypt and the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Mr Noureddin declined to say how far away the road would be built or how much it would cost. The government earlier put the price at $14.7m (£9.3m).

Mr Noureddin acknowledged the Egyptian government made a mistake in 1985 when it approved plans for the road near the plateau, listed as one of 440 UN World Heritage Sites. However, the important thing was rectifying the error. "What we have done is really historical. No one believed this complicated problem could have a solution," he said at a press conference also attended by a six-member Unesco team. Other long-term hazards to the plateau, including squatter villages, rubbish dumps and military camps, would be dealt with in time, Mr Noureddin said.