June 19,2003

Senators Work to End Loophole Potentially Affecting Iraqi Cultural Antiquities

WASHINGTON — Sen. Chuck Grassley, chairman of the Committee on Finance, today introduced legislation to close a legal loophole that could allow looted Iraqi antiquities to be brought into the United States. The Emergency Protection for Iraqi Cultural Antiquities Act of 2003 (EPIC Antiquities Act) was introduced with Sen. Max Baucus, ranking member.

Until recently, the Iraqi Sanctions Regulations restricted trade with Iraq. But, in May 2003,the United Nations Security Council lifted most sanctions on Iraq. The resolution also said thatmembers of the United Nations should establish a prohibition on trade in archaeological, cultural,historical, religious, and rare scientific items of Iraq that may have been illegally removed from thecountry. Grassley’s legislation authorizes the President to impose immediate emergency importrestrictions on the archaeological and ethnological materials of Iraq.

“I don’t want to get rid of the established process for protecting cultural antiquities, but this bill permits an extra guarantee of protection for Iraq’s cultural antiquities in the short term while Iraqcompletes its transition,” Grassley said. “The last thing that we in Congress want to do is fail to actto prevent trade in looted Iraqi artifacts here in the United States.”

Baucus said, “This common sense legislation will help to protect the history and heritage ofIraq and is a good step toward ensuring that Iraq’s cultural artifacts will remain in Iraq forgenerations to come. It’s important that the U.S. continue to help the Iraqi people rebuild theireconomy and we can do that by encouraging trade between our two countries -- while making surethat none of Iraq’s historical and cultural artifacts are included in that trade illegally.”

Current law – the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act – already authorizesthe President to restrict imports of cultural antiquities, but there is a lengthy process that must befollowed before the President may impose such restrictions, and the law doesn’t address the uniqueconditions that prevail in Iraq at this time. Grassley’s bill extends the President’s authority under theImplementation Act to allow immediate emergency restrictions during an interim period. The billalso terminates the extension of the President’s authority one year after relations with Iraq arenormalized so that the next Iraqi government can determine for itself whether to seek a bilateralagreement with the United States.

“This is an important signal of our commitment to preserving Iraq’s resources for the benefitof the Iraqi people,” Grassley said.