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5/4/03 - SAVING IRAQI ANTIQUITIES - 2003-05-05

The world values the archeological and cultural heritage of Iraq, which goes back more than ten-thousand years. The U.S.-led coalition has issued instructions to protect Iraq’s antiquities. The order came after looters ransacked museums in Baghdad and Mosul. As U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said, “Such looting causes irretrievable loss to the understanding of history and the efforts of Iraqi and international scholars to study and gain new insight into our past.”

The stolen objects remain the property of the Iraqi people. Under international law, anyone possessing or dealing in stolen artifacts is committing a crime. The U.S. is working through Interpol to locate stolen Iraqi objects that may have been taken out of the country. President George W. Bush said the looters will be found and punished:

“We’re working with Iraqis to recover artifacts, to find the hoodlums who ravished the National Museum of Antiquities in Baghdad.... We deplore the actions of the citizens who ravished that museum. And we will work with Iraqi citizens to find out who they were and to bring them to justice.”

Coalition radio broadcasts in Iraq are encouraging Iraqis to return stolen objects. According to a spokesman for the coalition, more than one hundred items have already been returned.

According to the Associated Press news service, “One man returned a chest filled with priceless manuscripts and parchments to a nearby mosque; a local pianist returned ten pieces, including a broken statue of an Assyrian king dated to the ninth century B.C.” U.S. General Tommy Franks said that in recent days many Iraqis have begun to volunteer information on the location of other stolen artifacts. The coalition will safeguard the items until they can be given back to the Iraqi museums, which are now being repaired.