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Christie's under fire for auctioning rare Egyptian artifacts

iStock/tupungato(LONDON) -- Auction house Christie's has "violated international treaties and conventions" by selling almost two dozen Egyptian artifacts in London, Egyptian authorities claim.

Christie's sold more than 20 pieces on July 3, including a limestone bust of the 18th dynasty princess Henuttaneb and a Middle Kingdom wood funerary model of a boat.

A 3,000-year-old stone sculpture of Tutankhamen, the famous "boy king," which Egyptian archaeologists suspect was looted from Luxor's famed Karnak Temple decades ago, will also go up for sale Thursday.

"The foreign and antiquities ministries believe that the auction held on July 3 in London at Christie's … is contrary to the relevant international treaties and conventions, since the auction house has not yet provided to the Egyptian side documents related (to the ownership) of the archaeological artifacts," the ministries said in a joint statement Wednesday.

"The Egyptian Embassy is sorry to announce that Christie's will hold a second auction to sell more artifacts, including a small statue of Tutankhamen, although we have solicited the delay of the sale until verifying and the legality of trading in these items, the authenticity of their documents, and evidence of its legal exportation from Egypt," Tarek Adel, the Egyptian ambassador to the U.K., said in the statement.

Last month, the foreign ministry said it had contacted Christie's and UNESCO in a bid to stop the sale, claiming its right in the Tutankhamen piece "under the current and previous Egyptian laws."

The brown quartzite statue, which portrays the boy king as Amun, the ancient Egyptian god of the sun and air, could generate more than $5 million, according to Christie's.

The statue currently belongs to a private collector and is part of what is known as the Resandro Collection.

Egyptian officials introduced a law in 1983 to regulate the ownership of Egyptian antiquities, saying that any ancient artifacts discovered in the country are considered state properties "with the exception of antiquities whose ownership or possession was already established at the time this law came into effect."

Christie's told ABC News in June that "ancient objects by their nature cannot be traced over millennia. It is hugely important to establish recent ownership and legal right to sell which we have clearly done."

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