The British Army is offering to help create a museum in Basra, which would be set up by the Iraqi authorities in one of Saddam Hussein’s palaces. British military planners have codenamed the project Operation Bell, after Gertrude Bell, the archaeologist who helped establish the Baghdad Museum in 1926. Assistance is also being offered by the British Museum, but all parties stress that this is an Iraqi venture.
The museum project was initiated by Major-General Barney White-Spunner, who commanded the IIIrd Division. On the Iraqi side, it is supported by Dr Mufid al-Jazairi, chairman of the cultural committee of the Iraqi parliament. The project has already been approved by the Ministry of Antiquities and Tourism, and has now gone to prime minister Nouri al-Maliki for a final decision.