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Russia Culture Min Hands US Iraq Historical Treasure List
March 31, 2003

MOSCOW (AP)--Russia's culture minister Monday pressed his concern that the U.S.-led war in Iraq could destroy historical treasures, handing the U.S. ambassador a list of architectural monuments and other items of cultural importance that could be at risk, the ministry said.

The list, given by Culture Minister Mikhail Shvydkoi to U.S. Ambassador Alexander Vershbow, includes ruins of Babylon, artwork from Mesopotamia and ancient cuneiform texts, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.

"These relics belong not only to Iraq, but to all of humanity. This is why we are extremely concerned about their fate," ITAR-Tass quoted Shvydkoi as saying.

Culture Ministry spokeswoman Natalya Uvarova said Vershbow expressed understanding for Russia's concern and agreed that historical treasures should be preserved during wars. There was no immediate comment from the U.S. Embassy.

On Friday, Shvydkoi sent a letter to the head of the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization saying the war is putting Iraq's cultural relics at risk of destruction and suggested the creation of a monitoring group under UNESCO's aegis that would protect such treasures during armed conflicts.

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