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Egypt hosts meeting on recovery of 'stolen treasures'

Wooden sarcophagus stolen from Egypt (13 March 010)
The US recently returned a 3,000-year-old wooden sarcophagus to Egypt

Global culture officials are meeting to discuss how to recover ancient treasures which they say have been stolen and displayed overseas.

Twenty countries are represented at the two-day conference in Cairo.

It has been organised by Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA), which wants many pharaonic items returned by Western museums.

The SCA said the forum would discuss "the protection and restitution of cultural heritage."

Representatives include cultural officials from Greece, Italy, China and Peru - all of which have lost ancient artefacts over the centuries which that they now want back.

Greece has long demanded that the Parthenon Marbles should be given back by the British Museum, while Peru is taking legal action to try to reclaim Inca treasures from Yale University in the United States

Stolen artefacts

Strategies under discussion at the conference include drawing up a single list of unique items to be returned to their countries of origin.

Representatives are also considering calling on the United Nations cultural body, Unesco, to amend a convention banning export and ownership of antiquities stolen after 1970 - so that they can pursue items that were snatched earlier, says the BBC's Yolande Knell in Cairo.

In recent years, the Egyptian authorities have stepped up their efforts to recover stolen artefacts, with the head of the SCA, Zahi Hawass, attracting international attention for his efforts.

Last year, he broke off ties with the Louvre museum until France returned fragments chipped from a wall painting in an ancient Egyptian tomb.

"We are the country with the loudest voice on this issue and have so far had returned about 5,000 artefacts," he said at the conference.

"We want to know how we can learn from each other, we need to co-operate to come up with one wish-list and fight until we return those artefacts back."

He has repeatedly asked for the Rosetta Stone - which has been kept in the British Museum for more than 200 years - and a 3,400-year-old bust of Queen Nefertiti on display in Berlin, to be given back to Egypt.



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