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Cooperation for the Safeguarding of Iraqi Antiquities and Cultural Property

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Washington, DC
April 14, 2003

The people of the United States value the archeological and cultural heritage of Iraq that documents over 10,000 years of the development of civilization. In recent days, the National Museums in Baghdad and Mosul have been looted, as well as other cultural institutions and archeological sites. 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. 

Objects and documents taken from museums and sites are the property of the Iraqi nation under Iraqi and international law. They are therefore stolen property, whether found in Iraq or other nations. Anyone knowingly possessing or dealing in such objects is committing a crime. Such individuals may be prosecuted under Iraqi law and under the United States National Stolen Property Act. The Iraqi people, as well as members of the Coalition forces and others, are warned not to handle these artifacts. In particular, Americans are asked not to purchase or otherwise trade in such objects as they belong to the nation of Iraq and are stolen property.
 
In addition to the well-reported efforts made to protect cultural, religious and historic sites in Iraq, CENTCOM has issued instructions to all troops inside Iraq to protect museums and antiquities throughout Iraq. U.S. radio broadcasts throughout Iraq are encouraging Iraqis to return any items taken and are providing instructions on how to do so. The Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Affairs will help Iraqis and international experts in their efforts to restore artifacts and the catalogs of antiquities that were damaged by looters. A senior advisor in the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Affairs, Ambassador John Limbert, will take the lead in this effort.

We are working through INTERPOL to pursue broader international law enforcement efforts to help locate these items and return them to Iraq before they make it into international crime channels.

We have also been in touch with the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) regarding a constructive role they can play in safeguarding Iraqi antiquities.



Released on April 14, 2003

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