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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 April, 2005, 18:22 GMT 19:22 UK
Christie's halts sale of artefact
Ancient city of Persepolis
The stone relief comes from the ancient city of Persepolis
An ancient Iranian artefact that Iran says was taken out of the country illegally has been withdrawn from sale, UK auctioneer Christie's says.

Christie's said they were happy to comply with a London court ruling to give Iran time to provide evidence in support of the allegation.

Iran says the 2,500-year-old stone relief from the ancient city of Persepolis was smuggled out Iran.

The piece, which depicts the head of a soldier, was to be sold on Wednesday.

Christie's had estimated its value at some $400,000 (200,000).

The limestone relief is said to have come from the stairways of a palace built by Xerxes I (486-465 BC) in Persepolis, now in southern Fars province.

The piece was smuggled out of Iran some time between 1933 and 1974, an Iranian cultural official told the AFP news agency.

It was sold by another London auction house in the 1970s.

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