By John Lee.
Azzaman quotes a senior official at the Ministry of Antiquities and Tourism as saying that the United States still keeps 80,000 ancient Iraqi artifacts and refuses to return them to the Iraq Museum.
Hazem al-Shammari said Iraqi authorities were in touch with their American counterparts but the discussion have so far led to nothing. He did not say how the items ended up in the US or why the US is refusing to return them.
According to the article, this points to large-scale looting and removal of heritage without Iraqi consent while troops were stationed at major Mesopotamian sites. Landmarks like Babylon, Ur, and Nimrud were reported to have been extensively damaged by heavy equipment and illegal digging.
The Antiquities Department has been updating its maps, which currently include more than 40,000 ancient sites, of which at least 10,000 sites are currently considered archaeologically significant, and more are expected to be added to the "archaeological significant" list.
Most of the significant sites remain unexcavated and unprotected, he said.
(Picture: The Ziggurat at Ur)