Iraqi Jewish artifacts exhibit opens in D.C.

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The National Archives opened to the public an exhibit of Iraqi Jewish artifacts it restored.

The exhibit displays 24 of the thousands of items discovered by U.S. troops in 2003 following the ouster of Saddam Hussein.

The troops found the items in the waterlogged basement of Iraqi intelligence headquarters. The items were shipped to the National Archives, where experts  restored them and put them on display Nov. 8.

A number of Jewish groups and lawmakers have protested plans to return the items after the exhibit closes to Iraq, where there are virtually no Jews, and want the items to remain in the custody of one of the expatriate Iraqi Jewish communities.

Anthony Godfrey, the State Department’s director of Iraq affairs, who attended the media opening on Nov. 7, said such a handover to the expatriate community was not in the cards. One of the conditions under which the Army removed the items from Iraq in the first place was an agreement with the new Iraqi government to return them eventually, he said. — jta