BAGHDAD, April 16 (Xinhua) -- Iraq's National Museum, which was looted after U.S. troops entered Baghdad in 2003, is now partially reopened for visits of diplomatic corps in Baghdad and some foreign dignitaries, an Iraqi official told Xinhua.
"The National Museum is ready to receive visitors, but currently its doors are only opened for official visits as a first step in preparation for its opening soon to the public," Mudhir al- Zuhairy, spokesman of the Iraqi State Board of Antiquities and Heritage told Xinhua.
The museum in central the Iraqi capital has been receiving some diplomatic corps in Baghdad and some groups of foreigners who are guests of the government, Zuhairy said, adding that some groups of tourists also visited the museum recently following coordination with the Iraqi Board of Tourism in advance.
Up to 15,000 artifacts of Iraqi treasure-trove from the Stone Age through the Babylonian, Assyrian and Islamic periods, were stolen or destroyed by looters after the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime, which was toppled by U.S.-led troops.
U.S. troops, the only dominated power in Baghdad streets at the time, were criticized for not protecting the museum's precious collections.
So far, Iraqi and world culture officials have struggled to retrieve the treasures looted from the museum with limited success.
Officials from the international body of UNESCO said that up to 7,000 pieces are still missing, including about 40 to 50 considered to be of great historic importance.
Iraqi officials said that some important artifacts were spared as they had kept some at secret sites several weeks before the U.S. -led invasion.
However, they said that the fragile security situation in the country during the years that followed the collapse of Saddam's regime left hundreds of ruin sites across the country in the hands of looters who carried out random excavations in known and mostly unknown ruin sites and stole dozens of thousands of unknown antiquities -- many of which have been smuggled outside the country.