Greenpeace director in Peru to apologize and 'help investigate' Nazca lines stunt

Greenpeace's executive director traveled to Peru Thursday to personally apologize for the environmental group's stunt at the world-famous Nazca lines, which local authorities say harmed the archaeological marvel.

"I have come to meet with the authorities to see how we can help them regarding investigations into the case and we will do everything necessary to remedy the problem," Kumi Naidoo, who is South African, told Peruvian reporters upon his arrival at Jorge Chavez International Airport.

A senior Peruvian official said this week that his government would seek criminal charges against Greenpeace activists who allegedly damaged the U.N. World Heritage site by leaving footprints in the adjacent desert.

In the stunt, activists laid a message promoting clean energy beside the famed figure of a hummingbird comprised of black rocks on a white background.

The Nazca Lines are a series of ancient geoglyphs located in the Nazca Desert, about 400 km south of Lima.

Deputy Culture Minister Luis Jaime Castillo called it a "slap in the face at everything Peruvians consider sacred."

He said the government would seek to prevent those responsible from leaving the country and ask prosecutors to file charges of "attacking archaeological monuments," a crime punishable by up to six years in prison.

The activists entered a "strictly prohibited" area where they laid big yellow cloth letters reading: "Time for Change; The Future is Renewable." They said after initial criticism that they were "absolutely careful" not to disturb anything.

Castillo said no one, not even presidents and Cabinet ministers, is allowed without authorization where the activists trod, and those who do have permission must wear special shoes.

The Nazca lines are huge figures depicting living creatures, stylized plants and imaginary figures scratched on the surface of the ground between 1,500 and 2,000 years ago. They are believed to have had ritual astronomical functions.

"We fully understand that this looks bad," Greenpeace said in a statement Wednesday. "We came across as careless and crass."

Greenpeace regularly riles governments and corporations it deems environmental scofflaws. Monday's action was reportedly intended to promote clean energy to delegates from 190 countries at the U.N. climate talks in nearby Lima.

Based on reporting by The Associated Press.

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