PARIS – Interpol announced Friday it is sending a special team to Iraq to help track down pillaged art treasures, joining a legion of groups worldwide offering assistance in the recovery efforts.
The international law enforcement organization called on everyone involved in the conservation and trade of antiquities "to categorically decline any offers of cultural property originating from Iraq."
The move comes as Washington said FBI agents had been dispatched to Iraq to find plundered treasures and as the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization held an urgent meeting in Paris on restoring Iraq's cultural heritage.
Interpol said in a statement that it planned a special gathering May 5-6 to devise strategies for recovering the thousands of objects stolen from Baghdad's Iraq National Museum and other institutions nationwide.
The meeting is to bring together officials from UNESCO, the International Council of Museums and the World Customs Organization, among others.
While the pillage at first appeared to be a spontaneous frenzy unleashed by the fall of Baghdad, experts now believe some looters were highly organized professionals aiming to feed clandestine networks.
The Interpol statement said a special team of senior officers would go to Kuwait and other countries in the region later this month seeking information from governments and police on what had been stolen.
"The team will travel to Iraq as soon as this can be arranged with military officials," the statement said.
Interpol has already alerted police in its 181 member countries to make sure that everyone from border guards to art dealers and even the public is aware of the situation, the statement added.