Iraq Aftermath: Power Struggle - British Museum Leads Rescue Bid for Iraqi Heritage ; Antiquities

Article excerpt

The world's leading museums are to join forces to send an emergency team to Iraq to help rebuild its shattered cultural heritage. The Louvre, the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, New York's Metropolitan and the Hermitage in St Petersburg are among those preparing to contribute to a task force led by the British Museum.

The alliance is being co-ordinated by Neil MacGregor, the British Museum's director, who last week pledged to send his own curators to help assess the extent of the cultural "catastrophe" suffered by the Iraqi capital. Up to 170,000 priceless antiquities - many hailing from the earliest Mesopotamian civilisations - are still missing from the Iraqi National Museum in Baghdad following an outbreak of organised looting last weekend. Mosul Museum was also ransacked.

News of Mr MacGregor's latest initiative emerged yesterday, as Jordan declared it had seized 42 stolen Iraqi paintings from journalists entering Jordan from Iraq at the al-Karameh border post. Customs officers in America were immediately alerted to watch out for any suspicious items at border crossings.

Mr MacGregor, who returned to England on Friday after chairing a meeting about the crisis at Unesco in Paris, is to send the British Museum's keeper of Near East antiquities, John Curtis, to Baghdad this week. A team of six restorers and three curators will follow. …