Lost treasures were in Iraqi PM's kitchen

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The Independent Online

More than 600 ancient artefacts smuggled out of Iraq, recovered and lost again have been found among kitchen supplies stored at the Prime Minister's office.

The 638 items include pieces of jewellery, bronze figurines and cylindrical seals from the world's most ancient civilisations that were looted from the Iraqi National Museum in Baghdad after the 2003 invasion.

After their recovery, the US military delivered them last year to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's office, where they were forgotten.

The artefacts, packed in sealed boxes, were misplaced because of poor co-ordination between the Iraqi government ministries involved, said Antiquities Minister Qahtan al-Jabouri. He blamed "inappropriate handover procedures" but did not go into detail.

Iraqi and world culture officials have for years struggled to retrieve looted treasures but with little success. So far, 5,000 items stolen since the 2003 invasion have been recovered. More than 15,000 pieces from the National Museum are still missing.