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Britain Probes Art Looted by Nazis

February 17, 2000

LONDON (AP) _ The government announced Thursday that it is setting up a panel to resolve disputes over artwork looted by the Nazis that is now held by British museums.

The Spoliation Advisory Panel will hear claims from people or heirs who believe works such as paintings or furniture were stolen during World War II.

The panel can recommend such works be returned to the original owners if they are found to have been stolen, though such recommendations would have no legal force. It also will be able to recommend paying compensation to claimants or that a museum display alongside a piece of looted artwork an account of its history.

``Dreadful things happened in the Nazi era,″ Arts Minister Alan Howarth said. ``We can, even at this distance of time, do something to enable some justice to be done.″

Howarth said the government was particularly keen that claimants, many of whom may now be very old, not have to go through expensive and lengthy legal proceedings.

The panel will be chaired by a retired appeal judge, Sir David Hirst, and likely be made up of historians, philosophers and lawyers.

A nationwide audit is being carried out to determine the amount of Nazi-looted materials in British museums, but it is not thought to be a significant amount.

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