Iraq has kicked off a campaign urging the world community to co-operate with Iraq to regain its missing antiquities and protect its archaeological sites.
The campaign, which was launched at the beginning of February, includes sending government delegations to sign agreements with countries to help recover smuggled Iraqi antiquities.
"There are states that have not shown co-operation at the required level," said Aqeel al-Mandelawi, director general of relations at the Ministry of Culture. "Therefore the government, through our ministry and the other concerned ministries, such as the Foreign, Antiquities, and Justice Ministries, plan to intensify their contacts with those countries to urge them to show more co-operation and to sign joint memoranda with Iraq."
He said Iraq will cite international agreements and resolutions that fight illegal trade in antiquities.
So far, Iraq has been able to regain 115,000 art and antiquity pieces since 2003, including about 5,000 out of the 15,000 pieces that were stolen from the National Museum.
Amira Eidan Thahab, director of the Iraqi museums department at the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, told Mawtani that regaining these antiquities represent "the most difficult and complicated task".
According to Thahab, the number of pieces that have been smuggled outside the country is estimated in the hundreds of thousands. Since the artefacts were essentially un-documented and had no stamps on them showing they belonged to Iraq, determining their whereabouts is a very complex process.
Thahab said Iraq will strive through its campaign to win more co-operation from the world community to restore all that was stolen.
Last week, German authorities returned 45 antiquity pieces to Iraq, including a 6,500-year-old gold plate, a 3,000-year-old stone belonging to the Assyrian era that was part of the gate of King Ashur Banipal, and number of items belonging to the Sumerian period.
Thahab said regaining these pieces was a "great achievement", but called on the various countries to follow in the footsteps of Germany and other countries that have not hesitated to provide assistance to Iraq in regaining its antiquities.
She also said that her office "is about to regain 654 important antiquity pieces belonging to the Aramaic period from Britain after the British police recently seized them at a public auction".
Ali al-Shallah, chairman of the committee on culture, tourism and antiquities in the Iraqi parliament, said the government has put regaining looted Iraqi antiquities and securing the country's museums and archaeological sites at the top of its priorities.
"The spread of those sites across vast unmarked areas of the country makes the provision of total security for them in the traditional way almost impossible because we would then need huge numbers of security men and vast physical and financial resources," he said.
"Therefore the government, and as part of its campaign, will approach advanced countries to help Iraq in this respect by providing technical expertise and supplying it with modern monitoring equipment that employ satellites for surveillance and follow up," he added.
According to the Iraqi State Board of Antiquities and Heritage, the number of recorded archaeological sites in Iraq is 10,016, but many field experts say there are tens of thousands more sites that have yet to be discovered and have not been subject to investigation and excavation missions.