Baghdad - Israel should return rare Babylonian Jewish artifacts to Iraq, an official at the Tourism Ministry in Baghdad was quoted as saying Monday.
Iraq once had a large Jewish population, which numbered well over 100,000 people, prior to the formation of Israel in 1948. In the following decades, nearly all of Iraq's Jews migrated abroad under turbulent circumstances, leaving behind less than a dozen members of the community when US-led troops invaded in 2003.
Abd al-Zahra al-Talqani, a spokesman for the Iraqi Tourism Ministry, charged that the scroll was removed from Iraq illegally.
'A clear admission appeared on Israeli TV that shows there was a copy of the Torah which was smuggled from Iraq to Israel using bribery,' he told the pan-Arab al-Sharq al-Awsat daily.
Similar claims by Iraqi officials regarding allegedly illicit exports to Israel have been made over the last seven years.
The latest charge followed internal investigations by the ministry into the missing artifacts, al-Talqani said.
The rare scroll was originally thought to have been looted, along with other precious items across Iraq, in the anarchy that reigned following the toppling of Saddam Hussein's regime.
The United Nations believes thousands of items are missing from Iraq. Many have yet to be located, including dozens of pieces of high cultural or historical significance.
Earlier this year, Iraq pressed the United States for the return of key Jewish artifacts found by US soldiers as those artifacts were soaking in sewage water in the basement of Saddam Hussein's secret police headquarters.
The Jews of Iraq - whose presence in the Middle Eastern land goes back to the 6th century BC, during the reign of the ancient Babylonian empire - now mostly reside in Israel. This has prompted some to say the Jewish state should house artifacts related to the community.