Iraq reopens restored Baghdad museum, 6 years after mass looting

BAGHDAD - Iraq's restored National Museum reopened Monday with a red-carpet gala in the heart of Baghdad nearly six years after looters carried away priceless antiquities as American troops largely stood by in the chaos of the city's fall to U.S. forces.

The ransacking of the museum became a symbol for critics of Washington's post-invasion strategy and its inability to maintain order as Saddam Hussein's police and military unravelled.

But Iraq's prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, chose to look ahead. He called the reopening another milestone in Baghdad's slow return to stability after years of bloodshed.

"It was a dark age that Iraq passed through," the prime minister said at a dedication ceremony after walking down a red carpet into the museum. "This spot of civilization has had its share of destruction."

The museum - which holds artifacts from the Stone Age through the Babylonian, Assyrian and Islamic periods - will be open to the public starting Tuesday but only for organized tours at first, officials said.

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