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Ivory Coast asks France to return art

Ninara, Flickr | African artwork in a Paris museum.

Ivory Coast became the latest country to ask France to return works of art Wednesday, days after Paris said it was willing to hand back artefacts looted from Africa.

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The authorities will ask France to return around a hundred works of art, government spokesman and Communications Minister Sidi Toure announced following a cabinet meeting.

"Ivory Coast has drawn up a list of about a hundred masterpieces," said Toure. That list will be passed on to the panel of experts appointed by the French government to consider such requests, he added.

The move by the authorities in Abidjan came after the French presidency announced last Friday that it would restore to Benin 26 works of art plundered by troops in 1892.

That decision was in line with the recommendations of a report last week by French experts that recommended a change in the law and the return of museum artefacts to Africa.

Former French colony Senegal on Tuesday called on France to return all works of art taken from its country.

Calls have been growing in Africa for the restitution of artworks, but current French law strictly forbids the government from ceding state property, even in well-documented cases of pillaging.

The French experts' report, a copy of which has been seen by AFP, calls for new laws that would allow the return of thousands of African artefacts taken during the colonial period to nations that request them.

Some of the Ivorian works art, like those to be returned to Benin, are currently kept in the Quai Branly museum in Paris.

The museum's director, Stéphane Martin, disagreed with the report, saying that it placed undue value on "historical reparations" rather than taking into account "the contributions museums make" in safeguarding artworks.

Martin said that the policy risked France giving back artworks that had been given or bought freely. The report tainted "everything that was collected and bought during the colonial period with the impurity of the colonial crime", he told AFP.

French President Emmanuel Macron called on other European countries to consider their position on the issue, including Belgium, Britain and Germany.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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