US to return 1,000 smuggled Iraqi artefacts

BAGHDAD (AFP) — The American authorities are set to return more than 1,000 priceless Iraqi artefacts smuggled out of the country after the US-led invasion five years ago, the Iraqi government said on Monday.

Tourism and Antiquities Minister Qahtan Abbas said in a statement the items would be given to Iraq’s embassy in Washington, without giving details of the artefacts or when they would be returned.

With the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime in April 2003 following the US invasion, there was massive looting of Baghdad’s antiquities museum and countless historical sites around the country.

Iraq is described as the cradle of civilization, with some of the first evidence of complex urban life appearing within its borders around 3,000 BC.

Baghdad is keen to capitalise on some 10,000 historic sites across the country to attract tourists.

Abbas said Iraq’s friends should help “contribute to the restoration of Iraq’s rich heritage” and return the countless number of artefacts smuggled out in recent years.

He said the US ambassador in Baghdad, Ryan Crocker, and the former commander of US troops, General David Petraeus, had promised action to return the valuables and to help rebuild museums.

Baghdad has already asked other countries not to allow the sale of stolen Iraqi antiques on their soil.

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