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Last Updated: Monday, 17 September 2007, 15:56 GMT 16:56 UK
Egypt antiquities official held
By Magdi Abdelhadi
BBC Arab affairs analyst

Example of ancient Egyptian painting
The council of antiquities is one of Egypt's best known authorities
A top official in the Egyptian authority for antiquities has been arrested as part of an investigation into bribes for restoration contracts.

The head of the technical department, Abdul Hamid Qutb, was arrested on Saturday and his office was searched.

The contracts, worth tens of millions of dollars, cover some of Egypt's best known monuments, local media say.

Mr Qutb's boss, Zahi Hawwas, defended his department and said Mr Qutb was not in a position to award contracts.

"Awarding contracts follows a very rigorous procedure at the Supreme Council of Antiquities, and Mr Qutb had no authority whatsoever in taking decisions related to that," Dr Hawwas told the BBC Arabic service.

"We have 30,000 employees at the council, and if one or two of them turned out to have broken the law, well, that is something that could happen anywhere else.

"I do not think the violations that took place have anything to do with the way the council works at all," Dr Hawwas said.

Dr Hawwas is a well-known figure in the field of Egyptology and is often interviewed by the international media on archaeological finds.

He is clearly worried that the corruption investigation could tarnish the reputation of one of the country's best known authorities.

He told the BBC that he takes immediate action against any employee with the slightest shadow of suspicion hanging over them, even if the person turns out to be innocent.

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