Page last updated at 08:17 GMT, Monday, 20 October 2008 09:17 UK

Police look for Afghan antiques

The volunteers will be trained at the British Museum
The special officers will be trained by experts at the British Museum

Volunteers from the art industry are being trained by the Metropolitan Police to spot looted Afghan antiques.

The 12 Special Constables will be trained by experts at the British Museum.

The ArtBeat officers will visit art venues in London to raise awareness and give advice on items bought by dealers, museums and auction houses.

Last month the International Council of Museums issued a "Red List" of Afghan antiquities which could be targeted.

Illicit trade

The list describes several categories of pre-Islamic and Islamic cultural objects that are protected under Afghan legislation, banning their export and sale and are thought to have been targeted by smugglers since the 1990s.

Officers will distribute the list and will advice them on what to do if any such banned item is sold to them.

Police hope to double the number of the special officers.

Det Sgt Vernon Rapley, of the Met's Art and Antiques Unit, said: "The Met is committed to working together with industry to combat the illicit trade in cultural objects from Afghanistan; however policing should be considered the last line of defence.

"The message is clear: do not purchase any Afghan antiquities without clear title and established provenance."

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