Iraq cries for help to restore ancient sites

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BAGHDAD -- Iraq appealed to other nations on Thursday to help save its archaeological treasures from ruin, saying ancient Babylonian and Assyrian artifacts and priceless medieval Islamic monuments were at risk without more funds.

Iraq, which the ancient Greeks called Mesopotamia or ‘land between two rivers' because of its Tigris and Euphrates, is regarded by archaeologists as the cradle of civilisation....

... High on the list is the national museum in Baghdad, once a trove of ancient artefacts which was plundered after the 2003 invasion while U.S. troops stood by.

Around 6,000 items out of the approximately 15,000 which were stolen when order collapsed after the fall of Saddam Hussein were back on display in February.

Officials from Greece, Egypt and Italy, each of which have much experience managing their own antiquities, attended a meeting in Baghdad to launch Iraq's appeal for help.

There has already been some international assistance. Italy rehabilitated two museum exhibition halls from the Assyrian and Islamic periods.

The United States has donated cash to the museum and to help restore Babylon, which was looted, rebuilt by Saddam in a cavalier fashion and used as military base since 2003.

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