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Last Updated: Monday, 28 April, 2003, 22:26 GMT 23:26 UK
Antiquities 'handed in by Iraqis'
Empty cabinets in Baghdad's national museum
Looters cleaned out much of the national museum
More than 100 items looted from Iraqi museums have been handed in to US-led coalition forces, according to the American military.

They are said to include priceless manuscripts, a 7,000-year-old vase and one of the oldest bronze bas-relief representations of a bull.

The United States pledged to recover and repair priceless antiquities looted from Iraq's national museum in Baghdad and other institutions in the wake of the rout of Saddam Hussein's forces, and has offered rewards for their return.

Coalition forces were criticised for not protecting the national museum, which housed many treasures from "the cradle of civilisation".

Over the last 96 hours, we have had a whole lot of Iraqis contact our people up in Iraq and say: Actually, we know where a great many of these artefacts are
General Tommy Franks
Coalition forces commander

In a statement, US Central Command in the Gulf state of Qatar said: "Iraqis started to return the items after coalition forces began urging local residents to return any artefacts taken during the looting in Baghdad.

"One man returned a chest filled with priceless manuscripts and parchments to a nearby mosque, a local pianist returned 10 pieces including a broken statue of an Assyrian king dated to the 9th Century BC and one of the oldest recorded bronze bas-relief bulls.

"And after some negotiation, a man arrived with 46 stolen antiquities, then with eight more pieces, and finally with a 7,000-year-old vase.

"Every day, Iraqis approach coalition forces with information about missing antiquities, and coalition forces follow up and investigate those tips. Coalition forces will continue to work with the Iraqi people to recover priceless antiquities."

Worldwide hunt

Leading international experts in Mesopotamian antiquities are due to meet in London on Tuesday to discuss ways to save Iraq's cultural heritage.

The meeting, jointly organised by the United Nations cultural organisation, Unesco, and the British Museum, will focus on how to help Iraqi curators and archaeologists following the looting of the country's museums.

Interpol has launched a worldwide hunt for stolen Iraqi treasures, and has warned collectors not to buy items they suspected had been stolen.

Two cultural advisers to the administration of US President George W Bush resigned in protest after US forces failed to prevent the looting and ransacking of the national museum in the chaos that followed the fall of Baghdad to US forces on 9 April.

The BBC's Graham Satchell
"They are trying to fill the galleries with anything they can"

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