- Fears that Iraq's heritage will face widespread looting
at the end of the Gulf war have been heightened after a group of wealthy
art dealers secured a high-level meeting with the US administration.
- It has emerged that a coalition of antiquities collectors
and arts lawyers, calling itself the American Council for Cultural Policy
(ACCP), met with US defence and state department officials prior to the
start of military action to offer its assistance in preserving the country's
invaluable archaeological collections.
- The group is known to consist of a number of influential
dealers who favour a relaxation of Iraq's tight restrictions on the ownership
and export of antiquities. Its treasurer, William Pearlstein, has described
Iraq's laws as 'retentionist' and has said he would support a post-war
government that would make it easier to have antiquities dispersed to the
- Before the Gulf war, a main strand of the ACCP's campaigning
has been to persuade its government to revise the Cultural Property Implementation
Act in order to minimise efforts by foreign nations to block the import
into the US of objects, particularly antiques.
- News of the group's meeting with the government has alarmed
scientists and archaeologists who fear the ACCP is working to a hidden
agenda that will see the US authorities ease restrictions on the movement
of Iraqi artefacts after a coalition victory in Iraq.
- Professor Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn, leading Cambridge
archaeologist and director of the McDonald Institute for Archaeological
Research, said: 'Iraqi antiquities legislation protects Iraq. The last
thing one needs is some group of dealer-connected Americans interfering.
Any change to those laws would be absolutely monstrous. '
- A wave of protest has also come from the Archaeological
Institute of America (AIA), which says any weakening of Iraq's strict antiquities
laws would be 'disastrous'. President Patty Gerstenblith said: 'The ACCP's
agenda is to encourage the collecting of antiquities through weakening
the laws of archaeologically-rich nations and eliminate national ownership
of antiquities to allow for easier export. '
- The ACCP has caused deep unease among archaeologists
since its creation in 2001. Among its main members are collectors and lawyers
with chequered histories in collecting valuable artefacts, including alleged
exhibitions of Nazi loot.
- They denied accusations of attempting to change Iraq's
treatment of archaeological objects. Instead, they said at the January
meeting they offered 'post-war technical and financial assistance', and