France hands back fragments of Egyptian murals

Fri Dec 11, 2009 11:06am EST
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PARIS (Reuters) - France handed back four fragments of an ancient tomb mural to Egyptian antiquities authorities on Friday and President Nicolas Sarkozy will return the fifth piece next week, the French culture ministry said.

Sarkozy will deliver the fifth fragment to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak during a lunch at the presidential palace Monday, according to the ministry.

France has said that the fragments were acquired in good faith by the Louvre between 2000 and 2003, but their provenance was called into doubt in 2008 after the discovery of the tomb from which they were believed to have been taken.

France said in October that it would return the five fragments held by the Louvre museum as a way of showing the country's determination to fight the illegal traffic in cultural objects.

Under the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) convention of 1970, countries agreed measures to prevent the illegal export of national treasures.

(Reporting by Emmanuel Jarry; Writing by Tamora Vidaillet)