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UK gives £3m to protect Iraq antiquities from IS terrorism

image copyrightAP
image captionIraqi officials said in March that Islamic State militants had destroyed ruins at the ancient city of Hatra

A £3m ($4.5m) scheme to help Iraq protect its antiquities from war and Islamic State terrorism has been announced by the UK government.

The Iraqi emergency heritage management project will use British expertise to help train experts from the country to assess and document threatened sites.

The British Museum will run the scheme over the next five years.

In March Iraqi officials said Islamic State militants had destroyed ruins at the ancient city of Hatra.

Militants have also bulldozed ruins at the Assyrian city of Nimrud and destroyed museum artefacts in Mosul.

'Real difference'

The UK's Department for Culture, Media and Sport said the scheme to protect culture from war and Islamic State militants will also help begin the process of reconstructing and preserving some of the world's most precious artefacts.

The cultural protection fund will work with museums and other institutions in countries where heritage is under threat, providing training and mentoring.

image copyrightAFP
image captionIslamic State fighters bulldozed ancient artefacts at Nimrud, like this winged bull, photographed in 2001

Culture Secretary John Whittingdale said many heritage sites were used for military purposes such as concealing weapons and said this should be "tackled head on".

"Civilisations tell their stories through their art, which is why people who are hell-bent on destruction target it," he said.

"Removing places and things that have helped to give people a shared sense of history and identity helps to undermine social cohesion and makes reconciliation less likely."

Foreign Office minister Tobias Ellwood said: "The humanitarian crisis in the Middle East takes priority and the UK is at the forefront of the international effort to support those affected by the conflicts in Syria and Iraq.

"But we cannot stand by and ignore this appalling, deliberate attempt to erase the rich cultural heritage and sense of belonging for all communities in Iraq and Syria.

Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, said the scheme "will make a real difference in recording and preserving the cultural heritage currently under threat in Iraq".

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