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Senate urges State Dept. to renegotiate terms for return of Iraqi Jewish archive

WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Senate unanimously urged the State Department to renegotiate the terms for the return to Iraq of an archive of Iraqi Jewish texts.

The resolution passed Thursday “strongly urges” the department to renegotiate the agreement with the Iraqi government “in order to ensure that the Iraqi Jewish Archive be kept in a place where its long-term preservation and care can be guaranteed.”

The nonbinding resolution also “recognizes that the Iraqi Jewish Archive should be housed in a location that is accessible to scholars and to Iraqi Jews and their descendants who have a personal interest in it.”

The resolution was initiated by Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.).

U.S. troops uncovered the archive in the Iraqi secret service headquarters in Baghdad in 2003, much of it waterlogged.

Iraqi agents under Saddam Hussein had looted many of the articles after the dictator had driven the remnants of the Jewish community out of the country in a terror campaign.

Under an agreement with the Coalition Provisional Authority that had governed Iraq, the materials were sent to the United States where experts, led by a National Archives team, restored them.

Iraqi Jews in Israel, the United States, Britain and elsewhere oppose its return to Iraq under the agreement, saying the government now in place is not sympathetic to Jewish interests and would not make it available.

The archive, now on display at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., is due to be returned in June.

Jewish groups, including the Orthodox Union, the World Jewish Congress, the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee and Justice for Jews from Arab Countries, praised the Senate for passing the resolution.

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