DAMASCUS (AFP) — Syria on Wednesday returned to Iraq around 700 pieces of antiquities, including gold coins and jewellery, which were stolen in the aftermath of the US-led invasion of its neighbour.
Culture Minister Riad Naassan-Agha handed over the artefacts to the minister of state for tourism and archaeology, Mohammed Abbas al-Oraibi, at a ceremony at Damascus national museum.
"These objects stolen in Iraq were seized by Syrian customs officials," Naassan-Agha said, according to the official SANA news agency, adding that other "very precious" artefacts will be returned soon.
He also urged "all the countries of the world and UNESCO to strive to return to Iraq all the antiquities which were stolen under the eyes of American occupation soldiers."
Around 32,000 artefacts were looted from 12,000 archaeological sites around Iraq during the chaos that followed the invasion as well as 15,000 items stolen from the Baghdad National Museum.
According to Iraqi officials only 4,000 artefacts have been recovered despite the introduction of a reward system offering up to 3,000 dollars to those handing in stolen items.
Iraq is described as the cradle of civilisation with some of the first evidence of complex urban life appearing within its borders around 3000 BC.
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