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Subject: Cultural heritage in Iraq

Cultural heritage in Iraq

From: Olivia Primanis <primanis>
Date: Thursday, April 17, 2003
    Communique
    Office of the Spokeswoman/ La Porte Parole
    Contact: m.de-pierrebourg [at] unesco__org
    +33 1 45 68 13 26
    Fax: +33 1 45 68 55 66
    UNESCO, April 17, 2003

    Koichiro Matsuura: The fate of Iraqi heritage lies in the hands
    of the international community as a whole

    The Director-General of UNESCO, Koichiro Matsuura, in his
    address to the international experts meeting on 17 April 2003
    convened at his initiative in UNESCO Headquarters, stated:
    "Despite all your expertise and good will, the fate of Iraqi
    heritage does not lie in your hands. It lies in the hands of the
    international community as a whole, and the only way that we
    will be able to safeguard these treasures and give them back to
    humanity is if we can count on the cohesion, coordination and
    determination of all concerned, at every level". He renewed his
    appeal to "all States to adopt the emergency legal and
    administrative measures required to prevent the importation into
    their territory of any cultural, archaeological or
    bibliographical object having recently left Iraq" and again
    called upon "all museums, art dealers and private collectors to
    exclude these objects from any commercial transactions".

    Mr Matsuura also announced his intention "to request the
    Secretary-General of the United Nations to submit the question
    of illicit traffic to the Security Council so that a resolution
    can be adopted which imposes an embargo, for a limited period,
    on the acquisition of all Iraqi cultural objects and calls for
    the return of such goods to Iraq if acquisitions or exports of
    this kind have already taken place. This resolution could thus
    be made applicable to the191 Member States of the United Nations
    and not only to the 97 States Parties to the 1970 Convention",
    he explained.

    After recalling all the initiatives taken by UNESCO before the
    conflict and following the news of the looting and destruction
    of numerous Iraqi cultural institutions and archaeological
    sites, the Director-General stressed the necessity "to take
    emergency measures, such as the setting-up by the authorities on
    the ground of a nation-wide 'heritage police', entrusted with
    the task of watching over cultural sites and institutions,
    including libraries and buildings where archives are stored". He
    also said he would like "a database to be compiled as soon as
    possible, combining all of the archives, lists and inventories
    relating to the Iraqi heritage, which would enable customs and
    police authorities, as well as art dealers and all concerned
    parties, to identify and check the status of a particular
    object. Naturally, this database could only become operational
    once a precise appraisal has been made of the objects which have
    been stolen or destroyed, something that could only be done by
    an on-site mission".

    The Director-General thanked the numerous States who have
    expressed their readiness to contribute to emergency measures
    taken by UNESCO by means of expert help or financial support. He
    welcomed the initiatives of Italy, which was the first to offer
    a contribution of $400,000 for the protection of the Iraqi
    heritage. This initiative was followed by many others, growing
    daily in number, from States including Qatar, France, Germany,
    the United Kingdom and Egypt, from institutions such as the
    United Nations Foundation and the Arab League Educational,
    Cultural and Scientific Organization (ALECSO), from scientific
    networks and from individuals. The Director-General expressed
    his delight with such initiatives, which will boost the Special
    Fund for the Iraqi Cultural Heritage that he has just
    established.


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                  Conservation DistList Instance 16:62
                 Distributed: Thursday, April 17, 2003
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Received on Thursday, 17 April, 2003

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