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Cablegate: Usunesco: Conferences Focus On Illicit Traffic In

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: USUNESCO: Conferences Focus on Illicit Traffic in
Cultural Property, Safeguarding Cultural Heritage in Iraq
and Plans for Babylon

1. Summary. The 22-23 Paris UNESCO meetings of the Second
International Coordination Committee for the Safeguarding of
Cultural Heritage of Iraq (Second Iraq ICC), Iraqi
officials, donor country officials and Iraqi specialists
focused on the fight against illicit traffic in Iraqi
cultural property, the looting of archaeological sites, and
the status of Babylon. They also reviewed progress on
restoring Iraqi cultural institutions such as the National
Museum in Baghdad and the National Library and Archives.
Participants spoke about providing technical expertise in
conservation and archaeological studies and other training
opportunities for Iraqis mostly held in venues outside Iraq.
The importance of raising public awareness inside Iraq about
the need to protect and preserve the cultural heritage was
emphasized as was the need for preserving the intangible
cultural heritage such as traditional music. Discussions of
Babylon continued at a 24 June Subcommittee meeting.

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A separate June 24 meeting concerned the worldwide illicit
traffic in cultural property and highlighted the key role of
the UNESCO national legislation data base, which will
receive financial support from the State Department ECA
bureau. End summary.

Iraq/ Fighting Illicit Trafficking of Cultural Property
--------------------------------------------- ---------------

2. A primary recommendation in the report emerging from
the Second Iraq ICC called upon Iraq's neighbors to
strengthen anti-smuggling efforts.
--Particular concern about Iraq's borders with Turkey and
Iran was expressed during the discussions.
--Iraqi Minister of Culture Nuri Farhan al-Rawi and Minister
of State for Tourism and Antiquities Hasim Abdul Hasan Ali
Al Hashimi thanked the USG's Department of Homeland Security
for its help in recovering some cultural objects. Al
Hashimi also said that USG-provided trucks and
communications equipment was helping control the problem.
--The World Monuments Fund, which maintains an endangered
site list, has declared all of Iraq as endangered - the
first national designation of a country as endangered.

3. Other sessions featured descriptions of work in Iraq by
donor reps, including reps from the U.S., the U.K., Italy,
Poland, Germany, Jordan, and Japan and intergovernmental
organizations, who pointed to progress, but stressed that
security issues complicated the work.
--Training programs generally take place outside Iraq, which
makes the programs more expensive and open to fewer
--Looting of archeological sites is a pressing concern.
Moreover, increasing numbers of the looters are heavily
armed and apparently acting in concert.


4. During the June 22-23 sessions, which covered all of
Iraq, Babylon was featured several times. A British expert,
John Curtis, summarized his early expert report on the
damage to Babylon that occurred during the military
operations there of Polish troops, acting as part of the
Coalition. Polish representatives also presented a report.

5. Chief UNESCO culture official Mounir Bouchenaki and
Iraqi Minister of State for Tourism and Antiquities Al
Hashimi countered some lingering resentment concerning what
happened at Babylon. Al Hashimi pointed out that the US had
sent its sons and daughters to help Iraq and that the Iraqi
State Board for Antiquities and Heritage (SBAH) now has a
ranking representative in Baghdad's USG-controlled green

Babylon/The Way Forward

6. The Babylon Sub-ICC met 24 June. It consists primarily
of Iraqi officials, donor reps and a closely-knit group of
Iraqi archeologists and other specialists of various

7. During informal discussions on the margins of the
meetings, Iraqi and UNESCO officials indicated their
approval of the USG-suggested approach, which would involve
US-based NGOs in the development, with Iraqi experts, of a
site management plan for Babylon. The Iraqi officials
emphasized restoration of Babylon as the crown jewel of Iraq
serving both as a center for cultural tourism and a research
center for scholars. They welcome an initiative for a site
management plan that provides a way for the future of
Babylon. (Note. A site management plan is also consistent
with the goal of inscribing Babylon on the World Heritage
Site list. End note.)

Law and Conventions Generally Applicable to Illicit
Trafficking in Cultural Property
--------------------------------------------- ---------------

8. A separate 24 June UNESCO conference reviewed
international law applicable to illicit trafficking in
cultural property.
--Lawsuits under national law often hinged on seemingly
tangential matters, such as which country's law applied, and
whether the lawsuit was barred by the lapse of time.
--International normative instruments produce more uniform
results, but have holes in coverage.
--For example, some countries may require an item be listed
on an official inventory to be protected under a 1970 UNESCO
Convention concerning illicit trafficking. This means the
Convention, with respect to the manner in which some
countries implement it, does not fully protect illegally
excavated items. The U.S., however, does have a system in
place to protect illicitly excavated materials, and
Switzerland recently implemented a similar system.

--Legal procedures often hinge on ascertaining the specifics
of the law of the "source" country in which the property

--Thus, UNESCO's database of national laws can be invaluable
in winning court cases. However, African and other "source"
country laws are not yet included. (Note. The State
Department ECA bureau contribution to this database focuses
on translation into English of "source" country laws
concerning moveable property. Endnote.)

11. Comment. UNESCO's culture sector is on sound footing
when it engages in these projects, which have the
overwhelming approval of the international community.


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