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[casi] Members of US official cultural panel resign

The official presidential cultural advisors were cut out in January at the
White House by Bush's hastily assembled rump outfit of wheeler dealers,
suddenly pressing for relaxed regulations on importing of antiquities.

Today, in the Washington Post :

Bush Cultural Advisers Quit Over Iraq Museum Theft

Thursday, April 17, 2003; 1:43 PM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The head of a U.S. presidential panel on cultural
property has resigned in protest at the failure of U.S. forces to prevent
the wholesale looting of priceless treasures from Baghdad's antiquities

"It didn't have to happen," Martin Sullivan said of the objects that were
destroyed or stolen from the Iraqi National Museum in a wave of looting that
erupted as U.S.-led forces ended President Saddam Hussein's rule last week.

Sullivan, who chaired the President's Advisory Committee on Cultural
Property for eight years, said he wrote a letter of resignation to the White
House this week in part to make a statement but also because "you can't
speak freely" as a special government-appointed employee.

The president appoints the 11-member advisory committee. Another panel
member, Gary Vikan, also plans to resign because of the looting of the

"Our priorities had a big gap," Sullivan told Reuters on Thursday. "In a
pre-emptive war that's the kind of thing you should have planned for."

The National Museum held rare artifacts documenting the early civilizations
of ancient Mesopotamia, and leading archeologists were meeting in Paris on
Thursday to seek ways to rescue Iraq's cultural heritage.

Earlier this week, antiquities experts said they had been given assurances
from U.S. military planners that Iraq's historic artifacts and sites would
be protected by occupying forces.

U.S. archeological organizations and the U.N.'s cultural agency UNESCO said
they had provided U.S. officials with information about Iraq's cultural
heritage and archeological sites months before the war began.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has rejected charges the U.S. military was
to blame for failing to prevent the looting, noting the country has offered
rewards for the return of artifacts and information on their whereabouts.

"Looting is an unfortunate thing. Human beings are not perfect," Rumsfeld
said, earlier this month. "To the extent it happens in a war zone, it's
difficult to stop."

The Advisory Committee on Cultural Property convenes when a country requests
U.S. assistance under the 1970 UNESCO Convention on international protection
of cultural objects.

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