After historic Obama phone call, United States returns looted ancient artefact to Iran

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 September, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 30 September, 2013, 8:50am


Iranian President Hassan Rowhani has brought home a 2,700-year-old Persian artefact the US administration gave him as "a special gift" to Iranians.

"The Americans contacted us on Thursday and said 'we have a gift for you'," Rowhani told reporters upon arrival at the airport in Tehran, the ILNA news agency reported.

"They gave it back as a special gift to the Iranian nation."

Rowhani was speaking of a 7th century BC silver Persian drinking cup in the shape of a winged griffin, a legendary creature with the head of an eagle and body of a lion.

It is reported to be worth more than US$1 million.

After being looted from a cave in Iran, the cup was seized by US customs officials in 2003 when an arts dealer attempted to smuggle it into the country, according to a State Department tweet.

Mohammad Ali Najafi, head of Iran's heritage organisation who accompanied Rowhani to New York, welcomed the news.

"We hope this will mark the beginning of the return of other artefacts," he was quoted as saying by the IRNA news agency.

Rowhani made history on Friday by speaking on the phone to US President Barack Obama in the first contact between Iranian and American leaders since the 1979 Islamic revolution.