Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Iran Gives British Museum 2-Month Deadline Over Cyrus Cylinder

Iran will stop all mutual cooperation with the British Museum unless an ancient artifact, the Cyrus Cylinder, is loaned to the National Museum of Iran within the next two months.
Hamid Baqaei, vice president in charge of Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization set the deadline in an interview with the state-run Fars news agency.
“According to a deal between Iran’s National Museum and the British Museum, the ancient clay cylinder was scheduled to be lent to Iran in September but the director of the British Museum refused to do so, citing Iran’s post-election political state,” Baqaei said in the interview carried by the Web site of Fars today.
The Cylinder, dated about 539-530 B.C. and inscribed in Babylonian cuneiform, has been described as the world’s earliest charter of human rights. The British Museum said Oct. 8 that it would keep its promise to lend the Cylinder, and was watching the Iranian political situation to make sure the loan was made in the best possible conditions.
Iran has asked the British Museum to explain what political problem stops the fulfillment of the agreement, Baqaei said.
“If the British Museum fails to send the Cyrus Cylinder in the next two months to be shown in Iran, we will cease any mutual activities with them, including archaeological cooperation and holding cultural heritage exhibitions in the U.K.,” Fars quoted Baqaei as saying.
Election Protest
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was re-elected in June 12 elections, which his opponents said were rigged. Ahmadinejad has denied the allegations. Iranians have taken to the streets in the tens of thousands to protest the outcome.
“We certainly have committed to lending the Cyrus Cylinder to Iran, and it is fully our intention to do that,” said Hannah Boulton, head of press at the British Museum on Oct. 8. “We are currently monitoring the political situation in Iran, but we hope that we’ll be able to honor that commitment as soon as possible.”
“As ever with any kind of loan, we’d want to be assured that the situation in the country was suitable,” she said.
The British Museum promised to loan the Cylinder after its 2005-6 exhibition, “Forgotten Empire: The World of Ancient Persia,” according to Boulton. It was made clear at the time, she said, that the Cylinder would not be loaned until after the “Babylon: Myth and Reality” exhibition, which ended March 15. The British Museum also wanted the Cylinder shown temporarily in its new Iranian gallery, she said.
Discussions on the timing of the loan started “only comparatively recently,” Boulton said.

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