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Re: [casi] the destruction of our history

>From the Daily Press Briefing   State Department information on Iraq
Released on April 14, 2003

Copied below is just the part relating to IRAQ
  1-2          Safeguarding antiquities and cultural property


Daily Press Briefing
  Philip T. Reeker, Deputy Spokesman
  Washington, DC
  April 14, 2003


  1-2          Safeguarding antiquities and cultural property


  MR. REEKER: Good afternoon. I hope everybody had a chance to have lunch
  the briefing this time. It may be a good idea to start late.

  You all got an opportunity to hear from the Secretary this morning when he
  spoke with you from C Street. Further to some of his comments, we will be
  putting out a statement a bit later this afternoon -- I'll get you the
  copy of that -- on cooperation for the safeguarding of Iraqi antiquities
  cultural property because, as the Secretary indicated, this is a serious
  The people of the United States of America value the archeological and
  heritage of Iraq that documents over 10,000 years of the development of

  Obviously, we have all seen the distressing reports that, in recent days,
  national museums in Baghdad and in Mosul have been looted, as well as some
  other institutions and cultural sites. This kind of looting, as the
  indicated, causes irretrievable loss to the understanding of history and
to the
  efforts of Iraqi and international scholars to study and gain new insight
  our past.

  And so we would point out that objects and documents taken from the
museums and
  sites are the property of the Iraqi nation and, under Iraqi law, they are,
  therefore, stolen property, whether found in Iraq or in other nations; and
  anyone knowingly possessing or dealing in such objects is committing a
  Such individuals may be prosecuted under Iraqi law, and here in the United
  States may be prosecuted under the U.S. National Stolen Property Act. So
  Iraqi people, as well as members of the coalition forces and others, are
  not to handle these artifacts; in particular, we would point out that
  are asked not to purchase or otherwise trade in such objects, as they
belong to
  the nation of Iraq and are stolen property.

  So, as the Secretary indicated, we will be working with others. The Office
  Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance will help Iraqis and
  experts in their efforts to restore artifacts and catalogues of
  that were damaged by the looters, and a senior advisor to the Office of
  Reconstruction and Humanitarian Affairs, Ambassador John Limbert, is going
  take the lead in this effort.

  So we are working through Interpol to pursue broader international law
  enforcement efforts to help locate and return these items to Iraq before
  make it into international crime channels.

  And as Secretary Powell mentioned to you earlier, we have also been in
  with UNESCO, with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural
  Organization, regarding a constructive role that they can play in
  Iraqi antiquities.

  So we will put that out in a little more detail on paper later after the

  Questions on this or other subjects?

  QUESTION: Yeah, I have a question on this.

  MR. REEKER: Matt.

  QUESTION: But I think if it's addressed in the statement, then don't
bother to
  answer it now. But who exactly has been in touch with UNESCO? Where is

  MR. REEKER: It just so happens that the UNESCO Executive Board is meeting
  week in Paris, so our observer delegation to that meeting is there. But we
  an observer to UNESCO, as you know, who works out of our embassy in Paris,
  through those channels we've been in touch.

  QUESTION: Have you not reestablished a --

  MR. REEKER: As the President announced, you will recall, last September,
  United States will return to UNESCO and we are tentatively scheduled to
  on October 1st of this year. But we have not yet named a U.S. ambassador
and we
  are working out the discussions of how that will --

  QUESTION: Does not being a member now affect any -- affect your dealings

  MR. REEKER: Not that I am aware of. We have an observer status, and so we
  through those channels.

  QUESTION: All right. And then the last thing on this is did -- you said
  people who take these things may be prosecuted under Iraqi law? Well, who,
  exactly, is enforcing that? Anyone?

  MR. REEKER: Well, that's something that would emerge over time, Matt, but
  are crimes. The point is that anybody that is knowingly possessing or
  with these objects is violating laws and so, okay --

  QUESTION: Right. And the last thing you said was that the coalition, or
one of
  the things you said, coalition forces are warned not to handle or touch
  things? It was my understanding that, and there were witnesses, plenty of
  who saw coalition forces actually helping move some of the stuff. I mean
not to
  steal it, obviously to protect it.

  MR. REEKER: To protect it. Yes, obviously in the context of doing the
  thing --


  MR. REEKER: -- in terms of handling and I don't think there is any
  that coalition forces have been involved in the unfortunate looting. There
  those, obviously, that in the course of events in Baghdad have been
involved in
  that and we have seen that, but it is of concern to us, so we are going to
  with Iraqis and with others.


  QUESTION: The U.S. Government was reportedly warned that this would be a
  of looting, so why, why wasn't more done to not -- to stop it from getting
  this case, which is far down the road? You say things have been damaged
  from the press reports, it seems like everything's been destroyed. Why
  the United States try to stop it?

  MR. REEKER: I think you would need to talk to Central Command, who has
  fighting a war in Baghdad and other places. As you know, in recent days,
  have made great progress in that effort, but while there are pockets of
  resistance, while there are still priorities in terms of the security, the
  whole point is, this is important to us, and that is why we are working
  others and making the statements that I have just made. And I think the
  Pentagon has already briefed both from Central Command in Doha and from my
  colleague, Ms. Clarke's, briefing today to that regard.

  QUESTION: So the State Department role just came in when it was time to
  up? You also couldn't try to safeguard --

  MR. REEKER: The State Department is not on the ground in Iraq, Terri, and
  not been --

  QUESTION: I understand that, Phil.

  MR. REEKER: Yeah.

  QUESTION: But you're making the statement about it today as a high concern
  the State Department, so I'm just wondering why it wasn't prepared in

  MR. REEKER: Right. We are highlighting the situation. The State Department
  the one that obviously deals with UNESCO and other organizations, with
  Interpol, as I indicated, and the Secretary highlighted that for you this

  Anything else on this subject?

  (No response.)


[end blockquote]

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