A car carrying the Italian official heading up U.S. efforts to recover Iraq's looted antiquities was fired on Friday in northern Iraq, and an interpreter was killed, officials said in Rome. The official, Pietro Cordone (search), was unhurt.

Cordone, who is the senior adviser for cultural affairs of the U.S. provisional authority and the top Italian diplomat in the country, was traveling on the road between Mosul (search) and Tikrit (searchwhen his car came under fire, said a Foreign Ministry official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The official said Cordone's Iraqi interpreter was killed but that Cordone was unharmed.

The official gave no other details.

Cordone, who was born in Egypt and spent his diplomatic career in the Arab world, was named to his position in May to head up the coalition office responsible for finding and restoring Iraq's looted antiquities.

He was on hand at the Iraqi National Museum last week when three men returned the Vase of Warka, a 5,000-year-old white limestone vessel that is one of the most valuable of the museum's artifacts.

The museum, once the home of rare Islamic texts and priceless, millennia-old collections from the Assyrian, Sumerian and Babylonian civilizations, was plundered in the lawlessness and chaos that followed the fall of Baghdad on April 9.

The destruction triggered an international uproar, with many curators and archaeologists from around the world blaming the United States for failing to protect the institution.

When Cordone was named to his position, Italian Culture Minister Giuliano Urbani said Cordone's task was to recover "one of the most important artistic patrimonies" in the world.