Bangladesh wants a consignment of ancient artifacts on loan to France for an upcoming exhibition to be returned after two 1,500 year-old statues of the Hindu God Vishnu were stolen while awaiting shipment from Dhaka airport

Bangladesh wants return of artifacts loaned to France

Tue Dec 25, 2007 1:45pm GMT

DHAKA (Reuters) – “The Guimet Museum (in Paris) would be informed, regretfully, that it would not be possible to go ahead with holding the exhibition of the items as planned,” a statement from the office of the head of the interim government said on Tuesday.

One consignment of items had already been successfully sent to France when the theft occurred on Saturday as a second shipment was being loaded on a Paris-bound flight.

A government spokesman said the French exhibition would have to be cancelled and the artifacts already in Paris returned to Bangladesh.

The authorities have ordered the remaining items at Dhaka airport to be returned to their collections.

The initial decision to ship the rare items abroad had prompted opposition from art lovers and conservators who expressed concerns the artifacts might go missing in transit.

Police have arrested 15 individuals in connection with the thefts.

(Reporting by Nizam Ahmed, Editing by Matthew Jones)