Assessing the losses to Iraq's heritage

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CAIRO -- Archaeology in Iraq these days, explains the new caretaker of the country's 5,000-year-old heritage, is less about making new discoveries than finding out what has already been stolen.

"We need a government that takes responsibility for protecting the monuments of all Iraqis," antiquities director Abbas Ali al-Hussainy told AFP in an interview during a recent visit to Cairo.

"Right now we need to take measures to figure out where the sites are and know the extent of the damage and looting at each one," said the slight, bespectacled man.

The pillaging of the Iraqi National Museum in the immediate aftermath of Baghdad's fall in April 2003 shocked the world.

But while many of those antiquities have since been recovered, looting has taken off in the archaeological sites scattered around the perilous countryside.

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