Looted antiquities found in Syria returned to Baghdad museum
More than 700 antiquities stolen during the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 were returned Sunday to the Iraq National Museum in Baghdad.
Syrian authorities say they seized the artifacts, including gold necklaces, daggers and clay pots, from traffickers over the past five years.
"This was a positive initiative taken by Syria, and we wish the same initiative to be taken by all neighbouring countries," said Mohammad Abbas al-Oreibi, Iraq's acting state minister of tourism and archeology, who led negotiations with Syria to have the works returned.
Syrian and Iraqi officials attended a ceremony Sunday to welcome the artifacts back to the museum.
"The treasures contain very important and valuable pieces," said al-Oreibi.
Syrian authorities said items from the Bronze Age and early Islamic era were among the 701 artifacts returned.
Al-Oreibi said Iraq is hoping to persuade other Middle Eastern countries to return artifacts stolen in looting after Saddam was ousted in April 2003.
Among the countries Iraq hopes to persuade to return antiquities are Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Germany and Italy.
Between 3,000 and 7,000 pieces are believed to still be missing from the museum's collection, once a rich trove of Middle Eastern antiquities, according to UNESCO.
The Iraqi National Museum remains closed to the public due to the violence, lack of security, and the poor condition of the building.
With files from the Associated Press