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Louvre could house endangered treasures from Iraq, Syria: Hollande

French president is looking to keep Iraq and Syria's threatened ancient art works at Louvre conservation facility
Ancient treasures in the Middle East have been threatened by the ongoing violence (AFP)

French President Francois Hollande on Tuesday said the Louvre could house threatened treasures from Iraq, Syria and other war-torn countries at a secure site in northern France.

The valuable items could be placed at a conservation facility due to open in 2019 in Lievin, 200 km north of Paris, he said.

"The prime mission of the Lievin site will be to house the Louvre Museum's stored collection," Hollande said at a ceremony to unveil a plaque marking the site.

But, Hollande said, it will have "another role, sadly linked to the events, dramas and tragedies which may unfold in the world, wherever works of art are in danger because terrorists, because barbarians have decided to destroy them... [especially] in Syria and Iraq".

Hollande said France will make the proposal at a December conference in Abu Dhabi on endangered heritage. Representatives from around 40 countries are expected to take part.

"We are going to suggest that the Lievin conservation site is where these works can be protected," Hollande said.

The Abu Dhabi conference will also launch a fund, suggested by Hollande in September, which will aim to gather $100m to help save endangered art.

The Louvre - the world's most-frequented museum, with 8.6 million visitors in 2015 - has a vast collection of paintings, sculptures, Egyptian mummies and other treasures lying in its basement out of public view.

The Lievin site, located near a satellite Louvre museum at Lens, has been in the works since 2013.

The 60m euro site will be both a storage site and facility to study the Louvre's collection.

Ancient treasures in the Middle East have been threatened by the ongoing violence.

Over the past two years, Islamic State militants destroyed historical temples and artwork that date back thousands of years in Syria and Iraq.

Strategically located ancient castles across Syria have also turned into battlegrounds between rebels and government forces.

Early on in the Syrian civil war, the United Nations warned that the conflict could endanger the country’s six World Heritage sites.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition