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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 November, 2003, 05:50 GMT
Deal to halt looting of Khmer art
Angkor Wat
Cambodia's Angkor Wat temples are its most treasured landmark
The United States and Cambodia have signed a deal aimed at ending the trade in artefacts plundered from ancient Khmer temples.

The US State Department expressed concern at the "alarming rate" of pillage.

It said Cambodia's cultural heritage was in jeopardy.

Many of the artefacts looted from ancient Khmer temples end up in antiques markets in the US or in other western countries.

The deal to preserve them was signed in September in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh but was announced for the first time in Washington on Wednesday.

By entering into this agreement, the United States demonstrates its respect for the cultural heritage of Cambodia
US State Department
It follows a 1999 agreement under which the US imposed import restrictions on ancient stone artefacts from Cambodia.

The latest deal extends the protection to metal and ceramic objects.

"By entering into this agreement, the United States demonstrates its respect for the cultural heritage of Cambodia and decries the global pillage that results in an illicit trade in cultural objects," the State Department statement said in a statement.

Chainsaw massacre

The announcement follows an inter-government conference on safeguarding Cambodia's Angkor Wat temple complex, which was held in Paris last weekend.

There are more than 100 temples at Angkor, dating from the 9th to the 13th centuries.

They has been looted for decades, with pillagers using chisels and chainsaws to hack out their treasures.

In some temples more than 90% of the heads have been removed.

The artefacts are typically smuggled out for sale in Thailand to buyers from the West.

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