Monday, December 1, 2008

Saddam's palace may help restore civic pride to Basra

British back regeneration plan to transform lakeside residence into museum

The battered shell of a once opulent waterside palace built by Saddam Hussein may be restored as a new museum for the ancient port of Basra, with help from the British Army and the British Museum.

Final approval for the project has yet to be given by the Iraqi prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, the Art Newspaper reports this week, but army and museum experts have visited the site with officials from the Iraqi culture ministry. They have agreed that the building's grandeur, and its beautiful setting beside a lake and overlooking the Shatt al-Arab waterway, make it the ideal place for a museum that would also help to revitalise and restore pride in Basra. The British army could provide technical and engineering advice, while the British Museum would be able to offer support on display techniques and possibly even staff training.

"We did ask if people would be troubled by its association with Saddam, and our Iraqi friends told us that while some would, many others would be pleased to see it put to such a use," said Major Hugo Clark, who is in charge of the heritage section of the army's restoration programme. "In the bigger picture, the building's association with Saddam is itself part of the country's history."

Read the full story on the Guardian website

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