Iraq's ambassador to the US Lukman Fally...long-term loan accord 'is not a problem'
This could be Iraq's exit strategy in the tug-of-war over the Iraqi-Jewish archive, allowing it to save face: signing a long-term loan agreement with the US. Nathan Guttman reports in The Forward:
(Washington): while stressing his
country’s ownership of the Jewish artifacts now on display at the
National Archives in Washington, Iraq’s ambassador to the United States
hinted that his country could be open to discussing a loan agreement
which would delay the return of the objects to Baghdad.
Ambassador Lukman Faily said an Iraq government
delegation would be discussing the issue of a loan deal with U.S.
“We don’t see that as a problem, but as of now, the agreement is for these artifacts to go back home,” Faily said.
Faily spoke at the sidelines of a press roll out of
“Discovery and Recovery: Preserving Iraqi Jewish Heritage,” an
exhibition of Iraqi Jewish documents and artifacts discovered by the
United States after the fall of Saddam Hussein. The exhibition, at the
National Archives in Washington will officially open to the public on
The fate of the objects now on display has mobilized
Jewish activists in the United States as well as members of Congress,
who are demanding the material remain in the United States despite an
agreement signed in 2003 that promises all artifacts are returned to
Iraq once the restoration process and the exhibitions are complete. The
activists noted that the materials in the Jewish Iraqi archive were
seized unlawfully by Saddam and should be retuned to their owners. If
owners are not found, they are asking to keep the archives in the U.S.,
because members of the Iraqi Jewish community will not be able to access
them in Iraq.
Responding to these arguments Ambassador Faily said:
“We appreciate where they are coming from but you also have to
appreciate this was an agreement, a legal agreement, agreed with the
[Coalition Provisional Authority] back in 2003 and its owned by the
Iraqi government.” He added that his government will take good care of
the papers when upon their return and will be sensitive to their
religious importance to the Jewish community. “We fully appreciate that
and we, as Muslims, have a similar perspective regarding the Quran and
others, but this is owned by the Iraqi government, it’s a historical
agreement we made and we preceding with it.”
It is not clear when the delegation of the Iraqi
national archive will conduct talks in Washington and whether they will
be presented with a formal American request to sign a long-term loan
agreement for the Jewish archive material.