Page last updated at 10:31 GMT, Sunday, 20 September 2009 11:31 UK

Three held in Iraqi art 'sting'

stone temple
This Sumerian stone temple dates from the same period as the recovered bust

The bust of a Sumerian king is among eight stolen antiques recovered in an undercover operation by Iraqi police.

A local army commander said three men were arrested after trying to sell the pieces dating from the Sumerian period which ran from 2000 to 4000 BC.

Major General Abdul Amir al-Zaidi said the arrests were made south-west of Kirkuk.

It is not clear where the items came from but many treasures were looted from museums after the US-led invasion.

Major General al-Zaidi said the men were arrested after attempting to sell one of the artefacts for $160,000 (£98,000) to an undercover intelligence officer.

Fourth man

He said the sting operation took two weeks and was based on information gleaned from local residents.

"The duty of Iraqi army is not only to chase the terrorists but also to protect state treasures," he told reporters.

A fourth man is still being sought by police.

After the fall of Saddam Hussein's government in 2003, robbers stole valuable treasures from the National Museum in Baghdad and other institutions.

The museums held collections from the Assyrian, Sumerian and Babylonian cultures that covered 7,000 years of civilisation in ancient Mesopotamia.

Some items have been recovered but many are still missing.

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