IN some ways it's just as well diplomatic relations between Britain and Iraq remain firmly cut. The Greeks may have a point or two about the Elgin Marbles, but they cannot complain about the way they are displayed in Room 8 at the British Museum. The same could not be said of the collection of statuary from the kingdom of Nimrud, in what is now Iraq. The colossal stone lion from the Temple of Ishtar and the man-headed winged lions from the throne-room of Ashurnasirpal II used to form perhaps the most heart-stopping array of antique carvings anywhere.
Now, almost under the fangs of the Ishtar lion, the BM has installed another of its shops, all lit up by hot spotlights and selling 'Hunkydory' mummy pencil tins and so on. So carvings that outlasted Nineveh and Babylon have finally been humbled by the Thatcherite tinkle of the BM's cash registers.
A spokesman agrees the position of the shop is Perhaps Not Ideal - meaning sod off, we like it - and says there are no plans to move it for some years. As for the Iraqis: 'What,' he wanted to know, 'have they got to do with it?'