France to return stolen relics to Egypt

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PARIS: France decided Friday to return to Egypt five relics stolen from Luxor s Valley of the Kings and sold to the Louvre, two days after Cairo severed ties with the Paris museum in protest.

A special commission of the French museums agency decided unanimously to restitute the five painted wall fragments after ruling that they were indeed stolen in the 1980s before ending up at the Louvre in 2000 and 2003.

Restitution is now just a matter of weeks, said a culture ministry official.

Egypt on Wednesday severed all ties with the Louvre to press demands that the Paris museum return the artifacts.

The French government had said that the Louvre acted in good faith when it purchased the relics and that doubts were raised only in November after archaeologists discovered the tomb and the missing fragments.

Egyptian Antiquities chief Zahi Hawass told AFP in Cairo that the Paris museum had bought the antiquities even though its curators knew they were stolen.

The five small relics were taken from the wall painting of an ancient Egyptian tomb dating back to the 18th dynasty and are currently in storage at the Louvre.

In recent years Egyptian authorities have been increasingly vociferous in campaigning for the return of important works. -AFP

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