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Iran wants $300,000 compensation from the British Museum

As a continuation of their long running dispute [1] over the delayed loan of the Cyrus Cylinder, Iran is now requesting monetary compensation because of the delay.

Reuters [2]

Mon Apr 19, 2010 6:35am EDT
Iran wants $300,000 in British Museum antiquity row

(Reuters) – Iran wants $300,000 in compensation from the British Museum over its failure to lend the Islamic Republic an ancient Persian treasure, state television reported.

The dispute over the so-called Cyrus Cylinder, named after the Persian ruler’s 6th century BC conquest of Babylon, is a further sign of deteriorating relations between Tehran and London.

Britain is among Western powers pushing for a fourth round of U.N. sanctions against Iran over its refusal to halt sensitive work they suspect has military aims, something Iran denies.

In February, Iranian media said Tehran had cut links with the British Museum, after setting a two-month deadline late last year for the museum in London to allow the public display in Iran of the Cyrus Cylinder.

The British Museum, which houses a vast collection of world art and artifacts, said in September that plans to hand over the 2,500-year-old clay cylinder had been delayed due to unspecified “practicalities.”

State-owned Press TV, in a report posted on its website on Sunday evening, said Iran had now decided to seek compensation.

“The National Museum of Iran has spent about $300,000 for the exhibition and we will demand our loss to be compensated for by the British Museum,” Hamid Baqaie, head of the state Cultural Heritage Organization, was quoted as saying.

Apart from the nuclear row, Iranian officials have also accused London of interfering in Iran’s internal affairs following its disputed presidential election last year which plunged the major oil producer into political turmoil.

The Iranian government has warned of a possible downgrading of ties in different fields.

Cyrus is regarded as one of ancient Persia’s greatest historical figures, creating one of the world’s first empires two centuries before Alexander the Great conquered the region.

He captured Babylon, in today’s Iraq, in 539 B.C. and freed Jews held in captivity there. He is also credited as the author of a decree inscribed on the Cyrus Cylinder, which some have described as the first charter of human rights.

(Writing by Fredrik Dahl; Editing by Jon Hemming)

The Times [3]

April 20, 2010
Iran demands $300,000 from British Museum over Cyrus Cylinder delay

Iran is demanding that the British Museum pay $300,000 (£197,000) after it refused to hand over the Cyrus Cylinder — a cuneiform tablet regarded as the first declaration of human rights.

The demand comes two months after Tehran cut ties with the museum over delays in loaning the cylinder for an exhibition.

The museum had been due to hand over the tablet to Tehran in January but announced that the loan would be delayed until July after the discovery of artefacts that they believed could help with research.

Iran denounced the delay as politically motivated and linked the row to Tehran’s worsening relations with Britain after last year’s disputed election and international concern over its nuclear weapons programme.

Hamid Baghaei, the head of Iran’s state Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organisation, told state media that Iran would seek compensation for the cost of the exhibition that it had planned around the Cyrus Cylinder. “The National Museum of Iran has spent about $300,000 for the exhibition and we will demand our loss to be compensated for by the British Museum,” Mr Baghaei said.

The cylinder was acquired by the British museum after its discovery in 1879 and has remained in its collection ever since.

Cyrus, the Persian king credited as its author, created one of the first empires two centuries before Alexander the Great conquered the region.

He captured Babylon in 539BC and freed Jews held in captivity there. The tablet, named after him, is of huge significance in Iranian, Iraqi and Jewish history.

The Iranian human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi, accepting her Nobel Peace Prize in 2003, hailed the charter as “one of the most important documents that should be studied in the history of human rights”.

Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, and Mr Baghaei signed the loan agreement in January 2009, six months before the violence surrounding the elections. The move was hailed as a diplomatic breakthrough — at the time even the British ambassador in Tehran was struggling to maintain a dialogue.

Relations soured after Tehran blamed Britain for fomenting dissent against the regime and arrested several Iranian members of its embassy staff.