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As well as acquiring records of what the museums contained – although many of these may also have been destroyed – they want a moratorium on the trading of any Iraqi artefacts.

The centre suggest that such a moratorium could be helped by the Government using the authority of UN Security Council Resolution 661 to impose a “full trade embargo barring all imports from and exports to Iraq, excepting only medical supplies, foodstuffs, and other items of humanitarian need”.

“What is needed now is for emergency import restrictions to be placed on the trade of any archaeological material from Iraq in accordance with UN Resolutions,” say the centre. “When general trade sanctions are lifted by the Security Council restrictions should be left in place for cultural objects.”

As reported last week, trade organisations such as CINOA and the Antiquities Dealers Association have been proactive in advising members to apply rigorous due diligence in their dealings so as to avoid any trade in suspect artefacts.

This move is in keeping with the advice from the Cambridge University research centre.

In the longer term, the research centre want illegally removed material returned to Iraq. They believe these can be identified by applying the same measures to Iraq as have been used for investigating Nazi looted art. “Perhaps it would be possible to establish a UNESCO-approved repository for Iraqi material, which could be kept in safe storage and returned to Iraq when the situation there has stabilised,” the centre suggest.

Finally, they want international support for repairing the damaged museum collections. “Again, this would seem best left to Iraqi specialists who have the necessary skills and experience, although international support, perhaps organised under the auspices of UNESCO, would no doubt be welcome where and when it was needed,” they conclude.