Iran General NewsIran demands $300,000 from British Museum over Cyrus Cylinder...

Iran demands $300,000 from British Museum over Cyrus Cylinder delay

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ImageThe Times: Iran is demanding that the British Museum pay $300,000 (£197,000) after it refused to hand over the Cyrus Cylinder — a cuneiform tablet regarded as the first declaration of human rights. The Times

ImageIran is demanding that the British Museum pay $300,000 (£197,000) after it refused to hand over the Cyrus Cylinder — a cuneiform tablet regarded as the first declaration of human rights.

The demand comes two months after Tehran cut ties with the museum over delays in loaning the cylinder for an exhibition.

The museum had been due to hand over the tablet to Tehran in January but announced that the loan would be delayed until July after the discovery of artefacts that they believed could help with research.

Iran denounced the delay as politically motivated and linked the row to Tehran’s worsening relations with Britain after last year’s disputed election and international concern over its nuclear weapons programme.

Hamid Baghaei, the head of Iran’s state Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organisation, told state media that Iran would seek compensation for the cost of the exhibition that it had planned around the Cyrus Cylinder. “The National Museum of Iran has spent about $300,000 for the exhibition and we will demand our loss to be compensated for by the British Museum,” Mr Baghaei said.

The cylinder was acquired by the British museum after its discovery in 1879 and has remained in its collection ever since.

Cyrus, the Persian king credited as its author, created one of the first empires two centuries before Alexander the Great conquered the region.

He captured Babylon in 539BC and freed Jews held in captivity there. The tablet, named after him, is of huge significance in Iranian, Iraqi and Jewish history.

The Iranian human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi, accepting her Nobel Peace Prize in 2003, hailed the charter as “one of the most important documents that should be studied in the history of human rights”.

Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, and Mr Baghaei signed the loan agreement in January 2009, six months before the violence surrounding the elections. The move was hailed as a diplomatic breakthrough — at the time even the British ambassador in Tehran was struggling to maintain a dialogue.

Relations soured after Tehran blamed Britain for fomenting dissent against the regime and arrested several Iranian members of its embassy staff.

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