Egypt Cuts Ties With France's Louvre Museum

Egypt's antiquities department has severed its ties with France's Louvre museum because it has refused to return what are described as stolen artifacts, an official statement declared Wednesday.

The ruling means that no archeological expeditions connected to the France's premier museum will be allowed to work in Egypt. Already a lecture in Egypt by a former Louvre curator has been canceled.

"The Louvre Museum refused to return four archeological reliefs to Egypt that were stolen during the 1980s from the tomb of the noble Tetaki," near the famed temple city of Luxor, the statement said, quoting antiquities head Zahi Hawass.

Christiane Ziegler, the former director of the Louvre's Egyptology department, acquired the four reliefs last year and displayed them, said the statement. She will now not be allowed to give a scheduled lecture in Egypt.

Upon taking the helm of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities in 2002, Hawass made recovering stolen Egyptian antiquities a priority.

He issued a regulation, that he says was agreed to by all major international museums including the Louvre, banning the acquiring or display of stolen antiquities.

Hawass has made several high profile requests from the world's museum for the return of Egyptian artifacts.

At the top of Hawass' request list are the bust of Nefertiti _ wife of the famed monotheistic Pharaoh Akhenaten _ and the Rosetta Stone, a basalt slab with an inscription that was the key to deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphics. The bust is in Berlin's Egyptian Museum; the Rosetta Stone is in the British Museum in London.

Hawass said Egypt also was seeking "unique artifacts" from at least 10 museums around the world, including the Louvre in Paris and Boston's Museum of Fine Arts.

Hawass also has written to request the bust of Anchhaf _ the builder of the Chephren Pyramid _ from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and the statue of Hemiunu _ nephew of the Pharaoh Khufu, builder of the largest pyramid _ from Germany's Roemer-Pelizaeu museum.

Hawass long has sought items taken from Egypt, recently succeeding in winning the return from France of hair stolen from the mummy of Ramses II.