The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]
>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 Grayham [blockquote] Daily Press Briefing Philip T. Reeker, Deputy Spokesman Washington, DC April 14, 2003 INDEX: IRAQ 1-2 Safeguarding antiquities and cultural property TRANSCRIPT: MR. REEKER: Good afternoon. I hope everybody had a chance to have lunch before 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 paper copy of that -- on cooperation for the safeguarding of Iraqi antiquities and cultural property because, as the Secretary indicated, this is a serious issue. The people of the United States of America value the archeological and cultural heritage of Iraq that documents over 10,000 years of the development of civilization. Obviously, we have all seen the distressing reports that, in recent days, the 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 Secretary indicated, causes irretrievable loss to the understanding of history and to the efforts of Iraqi and international scholars to study and gain new insight into 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 crime. 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 the Iraqi people, as well as members of the coalition forces and others, are warned not to handle these artifacts; in particular, we would point out that Americans 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 of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance will help Iraqis and international experts in their efforts to restore artifacts and catalogues of antiquities that were damaged by the looters, and a senior advisor to the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Affairs, Ambassador John Limbert, is going to 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 they make it into international crime channels. And as Secretary Powell mentioned to you earlier, we have also been in touch with UNESCO, with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, regarding a constructive role that they can play in safeguarding Iraqi antiquities. So we will put that out in a little more detail on paper later after the briefing. 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 that? MR. REEKER: It just so happens that the UNESCO Executive Board is meeting this week in Paris, so our observer delegation to that meeting is there. But we have an observer to UNESCO, as you know, who works out of our embassy in Paris, so 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, the United States will return to UNESCO and we are tentatively scheduled to rejoin 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 with them? MR. REEKER: Not that I am aware of. We have an observer status, and so we go through those channels. QUESTION: All right. And then the last thing on this is did -- you said that 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 these are crimes. The point is that anybody that is knowingly possessing or dealing 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 these things? It was my understanding that, and there were witnesses, plenty of them, 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 right thing -- QUESTION: Okay. MR. REEKER: -- in terms of handling and I don't think there is any suggestion that coalition forces have been involved in the unfortunate looting. There are 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 work with Iraqis and with others. Terri. QUESTION: The U.S. Government was reportedly warned that this would be a target of looting, so why, why wasn't more done to not -- to stop it from getting to this case, which is far down the road? You say things have been damaged but, from the press reports, it seems like everything's been destroyed. Why didn't the United States try to stop it? MR. REEKER: I think you would need to talk to Central Command, who has been fighting a war in Baghdad and other places. As you know, in recent days, we 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 with 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 clean up? You also couldn't try to safeguard -- MR. REEKER: The State Department is not on the ground in Iraq, Terri, and has not been -- QUESTION: I understand that, Phil. MR. REEKER: Yeah. QUESTION: But you're making the statement about it today as a high concern of the State Department, so I'm just wondering why it wasn't prepared in advance. MR. REEKER: Right. We are highlighting the situation. The State Department is the one that obviously deals with UNESCO and other organizations, with Interpol, as I indicated, and the Secretary highlighted that for you this morning. Anything else on this subject? (No response.) MR. REEKER: No? [end blockquote] Use www.cafe-uni.co.uk as your window on the world's news. Read the world's view of current events focussing on the Middle East. _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email firstname.lastname@example.org All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk