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Old 05-06-2003, 11:54 AM   #1
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U.S, Interpol to track down stolen Iraqi artifacts

U.S. and Interpol Vow to Hunt Stolen Iraqi Art

Updated 11:31 AM ET May 6, 2003

By Joelle Diderich

LYON, France (Reuters) - U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft vowed on Tuesday to hunt down thieves who looted Iraqi museums and Interpol called for the creation of a special police task force to help track down the priceless artifacts.

Ashcroft, the most senior U.S. official to visit France since Paris and Washington fell out over the war in Iraq, said there was evidence that organized criminal gangs were behind the looting of historic treasures during the chaos of the war.

"From the evidence that has emerged, there is a strong case to be made that the looting and theft of artifacts was perpetrated by organized criminal groups, criminals who knew precisely what they were looking for," Ashcroft said.

"Regardless of how sophisticated these criminals are, or how hard they work to avoid detection, the U.S. law enforcement and our colleagues at Interpol will not rest until the stolen Iraqi artifacts are returned to their rightful place, the public museums and libraries of Iraq."

He was speaking on the final day of an Interpol conference on stolen Iraqi art at the headquarters of the international police cooperation agency in southeast France.

Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble called for the creation of an international police task force "in the Iraqi region." He gave no further details, but said Interpol would submit a complete proposal soon.

The most precious items were stolen from the Iraqi National Museum in Baghdad, which held thousands of rare artifacts documenting the development of mankind in ancient Mesopotamia, home to prehistoric man and the cradle of civilization.

The museum was gutted in April amid a wave of looting as security collapsed during the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Among the items believed to be missing are the Vase of Uruk and the Harp of Ur, dating back to between 3,000 and 2,500 BC.


Confusion still reigns on the fate of many objects believed to have been stashed away in vaults before the war, although it now appears the museum's list of treasures survived intact.

Experts from the United Nations cultural body, UNESCO, will fly to Iraq as soon as possible to compile a database of stolen objects which Interpol plans to publish online almost immediately in a bid to stem illegal trade in the artifacts.

"Our job is to develop the tools to allow the spread of this information," said Jean-Pierre Jouanny, an Interpol specialist in the theft of art and antiquities.

Experts told the meeting that past experience suggested many of the objects remained in Iraq. A number were probably in the hands of ordinary citizens unaware of their worth, Jouanny said.

Interpol has warned collectors not to buy artifacts they suspect had been stolen. Diplomats said on Monday the United States has prepared a U.N. Security Council resolution asking nations to watch out for and return any stolen Iraqi relics.

Despite its efforts, Interpol traditionally recovers only one out of ten stolen works of art.

"Objects reappear on the market sometimes 20, 30 or 40 years after the theft," explained Jouanny.

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Old 05-06-2003, 01:27 PM   #2
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I hope they'll be somewhat successful in recovering what was stolen in Iraq, but sadly this article doesn't give me a lot of hope of that happening.

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Old 05-06-2003, 01:56 PM   #3
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Me either. Fizz. I think alot of this stuff is going to end up in people's private collections. There is a huge exhibit of art from Iraq, Pakistan, Iran and neighboring countries at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Some people think most of the Iraqi antiquities in museums for a long time are the ones in that exhibit. The objects are scheduled to be returned to the old countries in August when the exhibit closes. Unfortunately, they're probably right. The guy from the museum who said that said he hopes to heck he's wrong. I'll bet he's right.
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Old 05-06-2003, 02:06 PM   #4
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I would advise to check all luggage from tv personel and soldiers for "war-souvenirs".
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Old 05-07-2003, 05:24 PM   #5
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I hope anyone caught bringing these things into the U.S. and any other country is busted and jailed for theft. Unfortunately the Internet is probably going to make selling this stuff way too easy.
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