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IRAN: Tehran cuts ties with Louvre in dispute over Persian artifacts

April 4, 2011 | 10:45 am

Picture 17 Iran has cut ties with the famous Louvre museum in Paris, an official said Monday, accusing the museum of failing to live up to an agreement to exhibit Persian artifacts in its possession in Iran.

"In the cultural field, we do not accept that European countries look down on us," Hamid Baghai, who heads Tehran's Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization, told reporters Monday, according to Agence France-Presse.

"The officials at The Louvre have until the end of 1389 [the Iranian year ending March 2011] to precisely tell us when and what they are going to set up here," he added.

Sensitivities over the French role in the excavation and export of Persian cultural artifacts are nothing new.

Cyrus_Cylinder_2 Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, France was granted a series of exclusive excavation concessions over important historical sites such as Susa, the capital of the Persian Empire under Cyrus the Great. According to those contracts, as many as half the artifacts found went to the French and many ended up in European private collections or museums.

The dispute with the Louvre follows a similar controversy with the British Museum over the exhibition of the Cyrus Cylinder, an ancient clay cylinder with cuneiform script praising the lineage and deeds of Cyrus the Great.

The British Museum delayed lending the cylinder to the National Museum of Iran after the disputed 2009 presidential elections and the upheaval that followed, citing security concerns, but Iranian authorities accused the British of playing politics. The controversy was eventually resolved and the cylinder went on display in Iran from September 2010 to January 2011.

-- Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran and Meris Lutz in Beirut

Photos, from top: The Louvre in Paris is accused by Iranian authorities of failing to live up to an agreement to exhibit artifacts in Iran; the Cyrus Cylinder was at the center of an earlier dispute between Iran and the British Museum. Credits: David Monniaux via Wikimedia Commons; Mike Peel via Wikimedia Commons.

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