Experts fret for Egypt's treasures, ancient sites

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Archaeologists voiced deepening concern on Thursday after fresh street battles erupted around Cairo's Egyptian Museum housing the gold sarcophagus of King Tutankhamun and other priceless relics.

Websites and chat-rooms buzzed with anxiety after a break-in last Friday that left a number of glass cabinets smashed and precious objects damaged, including two mummies.

There were also accounts of pilfering at an antiquities storage depot at Qantara and anecdotal reports of tomb raiding at the ancient necropolis of Saqqara.

In London, the British Museum said the Egyptian Museum housed objects "of unique importance to world heritage."

"It is a matter of the greatest concern that these irreplaceable objects should be fully protected to ensure their safety and survival for future generations," it told AFP.

In Paris, the Louvre said it was "very closely" following the situation. A team of French archaeologists, on a dig at Saqqara, had decided to return to France as site access had been closed for security reasons, it said.

UNESCO chief Irina Bokova pleaded for "all necessary measures" to be taken to preserve Egypt's treasures and secure the country's historical sites.

"Egyptian cultural heritage, both its monuments and its artefacts, are part of the ancestral heritage of humanity, handed down to us through the ages," she said on Tuesday....

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