TEHRAN (AFP) -Iran has threatened to retaliate if the United States moves to auction off invaluable ancient Persian artefacts to compensate victims of a Hamas bombing in Israel.
“If America lays claim to Iranian assets to implement some of its courts’ rulings, it will face a similar measure from Tehran,” Foreign Minister Manuchehr Mottaki told the official IRNA news agency.
The Chicago Tribune reported Wednesday that a US federal judge had rejected a key defense by the University of Chicago in a lawsuit brought by US survivors of a 1997 bombing in Jerusalem seeking the auctioning off of Iranian treasures in its collection to pay compensation.
Mottaki said parliament had adopted a law in 1999 which would authorize Iranian courts to file suits against foreign governments which take such action against Iranian interests.
“True, a ruling has been issued and has not yet gone into the stage of enforcement, but on the whole, it marks an indecent cultural move taken by the US,” he said.
Survivors of the bombing in a Jerusalem shopping district that killed five people were US visitors who filed a federal lawsuit against Iran over its financial support for Hamas, the Islamic militant group that now heads the Palestinian government.
“The University of Chicago is legally obliged to return Persepolis pieces,” the head of Iran’s National Museum, Mohammad Reza Kargar, was quoted as saying by state television.
He said there has been correspondence between the museum and the University of Chicago to repatriate the artefacts — an invaluable collection of clay tablets bearing ancient cuneiform script which have been in its care since the 1930s.
The university previously returned some 300 pieces in its collection to Iran in 2004.