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Italy welcomes back 'stolen' art from Getty Museum

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ROME, Nov 11 (AFP) - Italy's Culture Minister Rocco Buttiglione on Friday welcomed the return of three allegedly stolen ancient artefacts from the J Paul Getty Museum in the United States, saying it would get across the message that Italy was no longer an easy touch for looters.

"Italy is no longer a land of pillage. We are no longer going to accept that," Buttiglione said in Rome as he presented the priceless items to the press.

The restitution of the artifacts -- an ancient Greek krater, or jar, a bronze Etruscan candelabrum and an inscribed gravestone -- "is important in as much for the return itself as for the great value of the objects," he added.

The minister said it also showed there had been "a change of attitude," in public opinion about returning looted antiquities. A convention signed with the United States had also helped, leading to the restitution of hundreds of stolen art objects to Italy in recent years.

"What belongs to the Italian people must return to the Italian people," said Buttiglione.

The return of the objects coincides with the resumption in Rome next week of the trial of the Getty Museum's former antiquities curator, Marion True. She faces charges of conspiring to traffic in looted antiquities along with art dealer Robert Hecht.

Today "there are procedures under way in cases in which it's very clear a crime has been committed, others in which we have a moral right which we hope will be recognized," the minister said.

"Italy wants to collaborate with the US and we ask that this collaboration happens above all with the recognition of our ownership."

While only the krater formed the subject of a formal complaint by the Italian government, the museum decided to also return the other two items to ward off allegations that it knowingly bought looted art treasures.

Italy is demanding the return of 42 items of in the museum's antiquities collection.



COPYRIGHT 2005 Agence France-Presse. All rights reserved.

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