British-Iranian Tiff over Cyrus

Iran says British Museum won't honor agreement to loan the cuneiform Cyrus Cylinder to Iran because of political considerations.

Gil Ronen , | updated: 14:28

Cyrus Cylinder
Cyrus Cylinder
Israel news photo: Creative Commons

Citing political considerations, the British Museum has gone back on a pledge to send a famous cuneiform document from the time of King Cyrus to Iran, Tehran has claimed. Deputy Head of Iran's Cultural Heritage, Tourism and Handicrafts Organization (CHTHO), Hamid Baqaie, said in an interview with the Fars news agency last week that there had been an agreement between Iran and the museum that the clay Cyrus Cylinder would go on loan to Iran for display.

"According to a deal between Iran's National Museum and the British Museum, the ancient clay cylinder was scheduled to be lent to Iran in September but the director of the British Museum [Neil MacGregor] refused to do so, citing Iran's post-election political state," Baqaie said. "Unfortunately, the British party did not honor its pledge on illogical, illegal and unethical grounds allegedly due to political developments in Iran. What does cultural heritage have to do with our domestic political developments?"

"This is just an excuse and they want to postpone meeting their commitment," he accused, and added a threat: "If they fail to loan the Cyrus cylinder to Iran in two months, we will cease all our joint archeological cooperation and cultural heritage exhibitions ... in Britain.”

"A number of issues"
The British Museum said that it intends to send the cylinder to Iran as soon, but added that there is “just a number of practicalities and issues to be resolved.” It did not elaborate.

The document is a statement by Cyrus of Persia in which he prides himself on allowing various nations them to return to their homelands and rebuild their temples. This is seen as supporting the veracity of the Bible's story of the return to Jerusalem under Ezra and Nechemia.