Army officers to be trained to appreciate and protect foreign heritage

May 2, 2003

An archaeologist from Newcastle University is to advise the Ministry of Defence on changes in officer training to help prevent museum looting in future conflicts, writes Alison Utley.

Peter Stone, who briefed the military on the whereabouts of cultural heritage sites in Iraq before the start of hostilities, said the MoD had now asked him for advice on safeguarding national treasures following the loss of thousands of priceless antiquities from Iraq's national museum.

One of his recommendations will be that officer corps training include elements about understanding the value of cultural heritage.

"There is much that can be done to stop what happened in Iraq being repeated in future," said Dr Stone, who is director of the International Centre for Cultural and Heritage Studies at Newcastle. "It is a question of ensuring that heritage protection is a priority right from the start of military preparations.

Widespread anger followed reports that US tanks had secured sites of commercial interest such as the oil ministry while apparently standing by as museums were ransacked.

"In future, planning for this kind of widely anticipated theft needs to be integrated with planning to secure roads, hospitals and other key sites," Dr Stone said.

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