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U.S. on Lookout for Stolen Iraq Artifacts

April 19, 2003

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Customs inspectors and Border Patrol agents were alerted Friday to watch for and seize any stolen Iraqi art works and antiquities headed for the U.S. black market.

``It is important that we work with the new leaders of Iraq to preserve their cultural heritage,″ said Robert Bonner, commissioner of the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection.

Bonner said 50,000 pieces were known to be missing from the Iraqi National Museum in Baghdad, including some of man’s oldest artwork and writings and a 5,000-year-old solid gold harp.

Bonner asked Iraqi museum officials for photographs and descriptions of the items and said they will be made available to Customs inspectors and Border Patrol agents as soon as possible.

The alert was not triggered by any specific intelligence that U.S. collectors are trying to purchase the stolen goods, he said.

The bureau, part of the new Homeland Security Department, has authority to seize stolen artifacts belonging to other countries. No matter how many times such items change hands, U.S. law prevents anyone from gaining legal title to stolen art, artifacts and antiquities.

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On the Net:

Customs and Border Protection: http://www.cbp.gov/

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