War-looted work of art recovered in Iraq


IRAQ: Investigators have recovered the Lady of Warka, one of the most valuable exhibits stolen from the Iraqi National Museum in the chaos during Saddam Hussein's fall, Iraq's new culture minister said on Wednesday.

The alabaster sculpture is believed to be one of the earliest artistic representations of the human face, and dates from around 3500 BC.

The work is originally from the ancient city of Warka.

"During the past two days, we were able to recover the second most-valuable item of the Iraqi National Museum - the face of the Lady of Warka, which is known as the Sumerian Mona Lisa," Mr Mofeed al-Jazairi told a news conference.

"The item, which is one of the great relics of Warka, will be handed to the museum in the coming few days," Mr al-Jazairi said.

Mr al-Jazairi did not reveal exactly how the sculpture was recovered, but he said Iraqi police and US military police had played a part.

In the final days of the war that ousted Saddam in April, looters broke into the museum and stole or vandalised hundreds of priceless antiquities from Sumer, Akkad and Babylon - some of the world's earliest civilisations.

Of the 15,000 pieces stolen since the war began, about 13,000 are still missing. They include 32 of great value.

Many of the museum's treasures have been recovered - some unscathed, others badly damaged like the Vase of Warka. Other treasures were hidden in vaults before the war.

Some other looted items were handed in during an amnesty period.

Mr al-Jazairi did not give a date for the reopening of the museum. It has been closed since the war, apart from a brief exhibition in July to display the glittering Treasure of Nimrud.

He said only that the museum would reopen soon.