BERLIN: Egypt staked a fresh claim Sunday to the priceless ancient bust of Queen Nefertiti, which has spent the last century in Berlin after its discovery by a German archaeologist.
The director of the Egyptian National Museum in Cairo, Wafaa Seddiq, told a German newspaper that the elegant limestone figure was removed from the country illegally and that it should at least be loaned back to its home country.
"We know that we will not be able to bring Nefertiti back forever but an exhibit for a few months would be possible," Seddiq told the Bild am Sonntag.
"It is even our right to have it for such an exhibition because the bust was smuggled to Germany back then."
Cairo and Berlin have frequently crossed swords over the beautiful Nefertiti, which was unearthed by German archaeologist Ludwig Borchardt and removed from the country under a 1913 agreement that allowed him take 50 percent of what had been excavated.
However Seddiq said that under that treaty, important objets d'art were required to remain in Egypt. She accused Borchardt of playing down the historical significance of the bust so he could spirit it back to Berlin.
Seddiq, who was appointed to her post in February, said that she would now take up the issue with the director of the Egyptian Museum in Berlin, Dietrich Wildung.
Wildung came under fire last year from Egyptian Culture Minister Faruq Hosni when he allowed artists to temporarily fuse the 3,300-year-old bust to a bronze statue of a scantily clad woman.
Hosni angrily condemned the incident - in which the 50-centimeter-tall figure was briefly joined with the life-size torso cloaked in a close-fitting transparent robe - and demanded the return of the artifact.
One of history's great beauties, Nefertiti was the wife of pharaoh Akhenaton, remembered in history for having switched his kingdom to monotheism with the worship of one sun god, Aton.