Iraq cuts US archaeology cooperation over archives

Iraq has cut cooperation with the United States on archaeological exploration because Washington has not returned Iraq's Jewish archives, Tourism and Archaeology Minister Liwaa Smaisim has told AFP.

The fate of the archives, which were removed from Iraq following the 2003 US-led invasion, is a long-running point of contention between Washington and Baghdad, which has for years sought their return.

Smaisim, a member of powerful anti-US Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's movement, said in an interview with AFP that Iraq will use "all the means" to pursue the return of the archives.

"One of the means of pressure that I used against the American side is I stopped dealing with the American (archaeological) exploration missions because of the case of the Jewish archives and the antiquities that are in the United States," Smaisim said.

"The American side made many moves and pressure (for Iraq) to resume work with them but this is a final decision," he added.

The culture ministry says that millions of documents including the Jewish archives were transferred to the United States.

Seventy percent of the Jewish archives are Hebrew-language documents, with another 25 percent in Arabic and five percent in other languages, according to the ministry.

The archives, which were found in the flooded basement of the intelligence headquarters in Baghdad in 2003, include Torah scrolls, Jewish law and children's books, Arabic-language documents produced for Iraqi Jews and government reports about the Jewish community.

Iraq was home to a large Jewish community in ancient times, but its members left en masse after the creation of Israel and the first Arab-Israeli war in 1948.

"We talked with the American side about the Jewish archives. There are no clear and transparent answers," said Smaisim.

"They moved the archives in 2003; the agreement that was signed at that time between Iraq and the American side was to bring them back in 2005 after restoring them, but we are now in 2012," he said.

Smaisim, who was a dentist before becoming a minister in 2006, said the issue of the Jewish archives was "part of a bigger problem" with the United States, putting the number of Iraqi artefacts held there at 72,000.

"We asked the American side to inventory these artefacts and the Jewish archives... and to send them to the Iraqi side... but they did not respond," he said.

"All this led to stopping dealing with them since the beginning of the year," he said, adding that Iraq will "take all steps to get these antiquities and the Jewish archives back."

When asked for comment, US embassy spokesman Michael McClellen said the archives were in "the temporary custody of the US National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) for conservation, preservation, and digitisation."

"The US Department of State is funding the final phase of the project which includes a bilingual (English and Arabic) educational exhibit of the material in the US and in Iraq," he said, adding that "all the material will return to Iraq at the conclusion of the project."

On other Iraqi artefacts, McClellen said American universities and archaeologists had "engaged in a number of excavations across Iraq that were organised and conducted with the cooperation and support of Iraqi governments," and that the US works to return any illegally obtained Iraqi antiquities.

Smaisim also said that while pilgrims travelling to religious sites currently account for the vast majority of tourism in Iraq, there is a future for tourism to ancient sites as well.

"The backbone of tourism in Iraq now is religious tourism, which attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors annually, but there is also archaeological tourism, which represents a promising future for the country's tourism sector," Smaisim said.

But to boost tourism, "there is a need for infrastructure that includes hotels, roads and services, and we have started to work on that," he said.

"Iraq now realises that tourism is the most important sector after oil."

Loading...

Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • McCain seeks defence funding to help Asia against China challenges
    McCain seeks defence funding to help Asia against China challenges

    By David Brunnstrom WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A leading U.S. senator has proposed that the United States provide hundreds of millions of dollars to help train and equip the armed forces of Southeast Asian countries faced with Chinese territorial challenges. Republican Senator John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, made the proposal in an amendment to the 2016 U.S. Defense Authorization Act expected to be passed later this year, entitled the South China Sea Initiative. It …

  • US missile cruiser docks at Subic
    US missile cruiser docks at Subic

    A US Navy missile cruiser has dropped anchor in Subic Bay as part of “routine port call,” amid rising tension in the West Philippine Sea stirred by China’s island building activities and other threatening moves by its forces. The arrival of the Ticonderoga-class missile cruiser USS Shiloh (CG-67) at the Subic Bay Freeport in Olongapo City yesterday was “just a routine port visit for ship replenishment and routine maintenance of shipboard system,” said Philippine Navy Public Affairs Office …

  • Agri, power sectors should brace for El Niño
    Agri, power sectors should brace for El Niño

    The agriculture and power sectors, as well as the general public should brace for a prolonged El Niño phenomenon that could further reduce water supply for electricity and irrigation, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) warned yesterday. Flaviana Hilario, acting deputy administrator for research and development of PAGASA, said the El Niño condition is expected to intensify from weak to moderate by August this year. Anthony Lucero, …

  • China to US: Help cool down Phl on sea row
    China to US: Help cool down Phl on sea row

    The US should help “cool down” the Philippines and realize that its meddling in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) dispute would only stir tensions, a Chinese newspaper reported. “Washington should know its meddling in the South China Sea has been destabilizing the region. The US has vowed not to take sides in the territorial dispute, which involves China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. …

  • No stopping K to 12 despite SC case, protests
    No stopping K to 12 despite SC case, protests

    K to 12 is the fruit of years of comprehensive consultations involving different sectors in education,” Aquino said during the launching of the program at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Pasay City. Organized by the Department of Education (DepEd), the launch was attended by teachers, students and representatives from different stakeholders supportive of the K to 12 program. It was held two years after the signing of Republic Act 10533, or the Enhanced Basic Education …

  • MNLF pushes review of peace pact with gov’t
    MNLF pushes review of peace pact with gov’t

    The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) maintained its bid for completion of the tripartite review of the implementation of the peace agreement with the Philippine government in 1996. The MNLF’s desire to put consensual closure to the tripartite effort was relayed by its leaders to Sayed El-Masry, the special envoy of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), during the annual foreign ministers conference in Kuwait last Thursday. The MNLF peace agreement with the government in Sept. 2, …

  • Noy to raise sea dispute issue with Abe
    Noy to raise sea dispute issue with Abe

    President Aquino is expected to raise the West Philippine Sea dispute during his meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Japan next week. Aquino will leave for Tokyo on June 2 for a state visit until June 5. The President’s visit would boost relations between the two countries on all aspects including defense and security, according to Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary for Asian and Pacific Affairs Minda Cruz. …

  • CHED releases wrong data on tuition hike
    CHED releases wrong data on tuition hike

    The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) appears to have released erroneous data on the allowed tuition and other fee increases in Metro Manila for the incoming academic year. On the list of the 51 approved higher education institutions (HEI) allowed to impose hikes, CHED pegged the average increase in tuition at P32.34 per unit and the average increase in other fees at P34.79. However, a Philippine STAR re-computation showed that the actual average approved tuition increases in Metro …

POLL

Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Loading...
Poll Choice Options