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Italy issues Getty ultimatum for return of works

July 11, 2007|From Times Staff and Wire reports

Italy's culture minister issued an ultimatum to the J. Paul Getty Museum on Tuesday: The Getty has until the end of July to strike a deal over the return of more than 40 ancient artifacts Italy considers looted, or face "a real embargo" that would prevent the Getty from receiving loans of Italian art, and suspend the government's collaboration in Getty research and conservation projects in Italy.

Francesco Rutelli, speaking during a visit to Fano on Italy's east coast, said he had submitted a written "final proposal for dialogue and agreement" to the Getty, and that if a deal is not reached, "a real conflict will begin, a real embargo -- that is, the interruption of cultural and scientific collaboration between Italy and that museum."

Italian authorities have launched a worldwide campaign to recover looted treasures and are at odds with the Getty over antiquities they say were illegally dug up and smuggled out of the country, violating laws that make all antiquities found in Italy state property.

Getty spokesman Ron Hartwig said that Rutelli sent a "very cordial

In addition to the 26 objects the Getty has offered to return -- with the stipulation that Italy, in exchange, provide loans of significant works for display -- Italian officials are demanding 21 others. The Getty, which houses its ancient Greek, Roman and Etruscan art at the Getty Villa near Malibu, denies knowingly acquiring any illegally obtained objects.

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