London, May 30, IRNA-Iran has started proceedings at the High Court in London to stop Christie's auction house selling an ancient limestone artifact from Persepolis, worth more than Pnds 300,000 (Dlrs 540,000).
"The court has ordered the fragment to be withdrawn from sale to enable Iran to put forward evidence in support of its claim.
Christie's is happy to comply because, as a responsible auctioneer," a spokesman for the London auction house said.
High Court papers show Iran issued legal proceedings against Christie's to prevent the piece being sold at an auction entitled "Faces from the Ancient World: A European Private Collection" on April 20.
According to the Daily Telegraph Monday, additional court papers filed earlier this month show the auction house was replaced as the defendant by a person named as Denyse Berend, who is believed to be the owner.
The 22 cm. by 30 cm. limestone relief is said to feature the bearded head of a Persian guardsman wearing a feathered headdress, and is thought to have come from the Apadana palace, built by Xerxes I (486-465 BC) in Iran's ancient capital of Persepolis.
The Christie's spokesman insisted that the auction house "strictly adheres to any and all local and international laws with respect to cultural property and patrimony of art." "Christie's will not sell any work of art we know or have reason to believe has been stolen," he said but suggested that there was no basis for Iran's claim to the artifact because it had previously been sold in London prior to the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
"We have not been shown any evidence to support the claim and are surprised that Iran raised no objection when the fragment was sold publicly at another auction house in 1974," the spokesman was quoted saying.
He said Iran claims the fragment was "taken out of Iran at some time around 1931, immediately after legislation was brought in regulating the export of such objects".
The sale is expected to be blocked until Iran presents evidence for its legal action, which is unlikely to be heard in court until next year.
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