Egypt officials have said they will make a formal request to Germany for the return of the 3,400 year-old bust of fabled Queen Nefertiti, but Germany said the bust will remain in Berlin.
Online newspaper The Local quoted State minister for antiquities Zahi Hawass as saying this week a letter would be sent to Germany to demand the return of the Nefertiti bust, nearly a century after it was uncovered on the banks of the Nile.
Hawass said the centuries-old bust had been removed from Egypt illegally, according to The Local, and that he had already sent a request to Germany in January in his capacity as head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities.
This was a day before the launch of anti-regime protests that led to the ouster of president Hosni Mubarak.
The German government has denied repeated Egyptian requests to have the bust back, insisting there is nothing illegal about its acquisition.
"The German government's position has not changed. Nefertiti will remain in Berlin," The Local quoted a culture ministry spokesman as saying.
Germany says the bust – unearthed in 1912 by German archaeologist Ludwig Borchardt – was bought legally by the Prussian state, and that there are documents to prove it.
Nefertiti, renowned as one of history's great beauties, was the wife of Pharaoh Akhenaton, remembered for having converted his kingdom to monotheism with the worship of one sun god, Aton.
The bust is at the top of a "wish list" of five major artefacts exhibited abroad that Egypt wants returned as part of its cultural heritage.
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