Netherlands returns artefacts to Iraq

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Around 70 archaeological treasures smuggled out of Iraq were returned to Baghdad.

The Hague – Dutch authorities on Thursday handed back to Iraq 69 archaeological treasures – ranging from clay figures to ancient pots – that were smuggled out of the country, the culture ministry announced.

All the objects were taken during illegal digs in Iraq.

"Dozens of archaeological treasures seized in the Netherlands have been handed over to the Iraqi ambassador," a ministry statement said.

Artefacts which are handed back include a stamp with the inscription of Nebuchadnezzar, the mighty ruler of the neo-Babylonian Empire in the 600 BC and a fertility totem dating back to 5300 BC.

The archaeological treasures were on a list distributed by the international police organisation, Interpol, and were found in two Dutch art galleries. The value was not given.

"This restitution is a signal to the international art market," said Diederik Meijer, an Iraq specialist. "Those who possess illegal art works run the risk of losing them."

Meijer said the artefacts would probably be displayed at the Dutch national antiquities museum in Leyden before returning to the Iraqi national museum in Baghdad toward the end of the – year.

Trading in artefacts is widespread, as a result of illegal archaeological digs and also because of looting of Baghdad's National Museum in 2003.

AFP / Radio Netherlands / Expatica

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