Firms look to open casino in Saddam’s Babylonian palace in Iraq

Baghdad (RIA Novosti) – Iraq’s investment committee is studying projects proposed by U.S. and Russian firms to turn Saddam Hussein’s palace near the site of ancient Babylon into a tourist site with a casino, an Iraqi paper said.

Government paper Al-Sabah quoted Saleh al-Muslimawi, governor of the Babil Province about 85 kilometers (55 mi) south of Baghdad, as saying that the projects also entailed the restoration of museums in Babylon. He declined to give the companies‘ names.

Babylonian architectural and religious monuments are on the list of investment options compiled by the province’s authorities, the paper said.

The lavish hill-top palace that belonged to former dictator Saddam Hussein – who was executed by hanging in December 2006 – overlooks the ruins of Babylon and the Euphrates River.

Iraqi historians and archeologists have opposed any investment projects in the area as potentially damaging to the historical sites, the newspaper said.

They have said investment could also hamper efforts to receive compensation for damage caused by the U.S.-led coalition during the 2003 invasion of the country. Iraq lodged a corresponding complaint with UNESCO three years ago.

Hundreds of artifacts dating back to thousands of years ago were stolen or destroyed during and after the war. In one of the more severe cases, Americans built a base at an excavation site in Babylon, destroying the brick foundation of King Nebuchadnezzar II‘s palace dating back to the 7th century BC.

Original bricks bearing ancient inscriptions praising the king were left littered around the area.

Saddam’s palace was looted after his fall from power.