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Egypt's Chief of Antiquities Says He's Not Staying On

By KATE TAYLOR Published: March 3, 2011


Zahi Hawass, Egypt's chief antiquities official for almost a decade and a cabinet minister since January, said Thursday that he would not stay on in a newly formed government.


Zahi Hawass has posted a list of sites that have been looted since the start of the uprising.


Egypt's prime minister, Ahmed Shafiq, resigned Thursday, and the army asked his replacement, Essam Sharaf, to form a caretaker cabinet.

"If the government will ask me again, I will not accept this job," Mr. Hawass said in a telephone interview.


He also posted on his blog a list of some two dozen sites that have been looted or vandalized since the beginning of the uprising that led to the fall of Hosni Mubarak. Among them were the Metropolitan Museum of Art's storerooms at its excavation site in Dahshur, south of Cairo, which he said were attacked twice.


In recent weeks, Mr. Hawass has been the target of criticism ranging from charges of corruption to complaints that he is a publicity seeker. He was closely associated with Mr. Mubarak, who promoted him to a cabinet position during his last days in power.


In the interview, Mr. Hawass lashed out at his critics but said he was leaving his job because he could no longer protect Egypt's antiquities. "Those people are insects, they are nothing, but what really bothered me is the situation that you read today on my Web site," he said.


Egyptologists and cultural heritage experts said they did not know who would succeed Mr. Hawass, and one expert expressed concern that his departure would lead to more looting.


"I am terrified by the idea that this might be a sign to potential looters that now that last element of control is gone, and now we have a free hand to continue looting," said Karl von Habsburg, the president of the Association of National Committees of the Blue Shield, a body that tries to protect cultural heritage in conflict zones.


The director of the Metropolitan Museum, Thomas P. Campbell, said the museum had not previously disclosed the attacks on the storerooms at Dahshur, which took place several weeks ago, because the "nature of the information we were getting was confused." The objects excavated from the site belong to the Egyptian government, not the Met, he said, adding that museum officials were "gravely concerned about what's going on" in Egypt.


A version of this article appeared in print on March 4, 2011, on page A12 of the New York edition.

Source: NY Times

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