From Newsday:

The Princeton University Art Museum said Friday it will return some artifacts that Italy says were looted and smuggled out of the country.

It's part of Rome's efforts to keep pressure on museums worldwide to hand over treasures that ended up on the illegal antiquities market.

Authorities from the New Jersey museum and the Italian Culture Ministry will sign an agreement Monday resolving the ownership of 15 disputed artifacts in Princeton's collection, the museum said in a statement.

Under the agreement, Princeton will keep seven objects and transfer legal title to eight. Four of those eight will be returned to Italy, while another four will remain at the museum on loan for four years, the statement said.

In exchange, Italy will lend Princeton "a number of additional works of art of great significance and cultural importance," the statement said. Princeton students will also be given access to Italian excavation sites.

Among the objects covered by the deal is a "psykter" _ a Greek vase decorated with red figures that was used for cooling wine. Made in Athens around 500 B.C., a period of unequaled mastery for pottery in the ancient world, the vase was imported by the Etruscan culture in central Italy.

The psykter's title will be transferred to Italy, but it will be one of the four pieces that will remain on loan in Princeton for four years. The other returning objects include a VI century B.C. Etruscan statue depicting the head of a winged lion and other vases from Greece and southern Italy painted with mythological themes.

Museum director Susan Taylor said the institution was pleased with the deal.

"This agreement reflects and supports the research and educational mission of the university art museum, enabling us to retain a number of objects, repatriate others that belong to Italy, and have unprecedented access, on a long-term loan basis, to additional material," she said.

The agreement is similar to ones Italy has reached recently with the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles and the Metropolitan Museum in New York to return artifacts Italy says were looted or stolen and then sold to top museums.

Earlier this week, a top Italian negotiator in the case told The Associated Press that Rome was close to a deal with Princeton and was also focusing efforts on top institutions in Denmark, the United States and Japan.

The Princeton agreement "is not strictly a deal to recover artifacts," said Maurizio Fiorilli, a state lawyer and lead negotiator for the Culture Ministry. "They will obtain much more than what they give us."

Fiorilli stressed that the Italians were not questioning the museum's good faith in buying the objects and said the deal was meant to encourage cultural cooperation.

The agreement follows the one signed by the Getty last month to return 40 artifacts and is the latest deal yielded by Rome's efforts against the illegal antiquities market, which include a high-profile trial in Rome.

Prosecutors contend the psykter, one of the most prized artifacts in the Princeton accord, was looted from the Etruscan site of Cerveteri, north of Rome, by tomb raiders and sold to Princeton by American art dealer Robert Hecht for $350,000 in 1989.

Hecht is on trial along with former Getty curator Marion True, accused of knowingly acquiring looted or stolen antiquities. Both Americans deny wrongdoing.

The trial grew out of an investigation into an Italian art dealer, Giacomo Medici, who has been sentenced to a 10-year prison term on art trafficking charges. Medici is appealing his conviction.

In a 1995 raid on Medici's offices in Switzerland, police found a trove of artifacts and photos of antiquities, many in pieces and covered in dirt _ a sign they were excavated well after a 1939 law that made all antiquities found in Italy state property.

Experts have spent recent years proving that many of the objects in Medici's photos came from Italy and tracing them to museums around the world.

Fiorilli said Italy's archaeological sleuths are now focusing on talks with other museums, including the New Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen, Denmark, the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Miho Museum in Shiga, western Japan.

"It's not a question of who will we target next, we will check with everybody." Fiorilli said.

He said the Glyptotek had already responded to a request for information on objects which, according to documents from the Rome trial, the museum purchased from Hecht and Medici.

Flemming Friborg, curator of the Glyptotek, confirmed the Italians had been given information, saying that "we have a good dialogue with them and the ball now is in their camp."

Stressing the good faith of the museum in its acquisitions, Friborg said an exchange of objects had been discussed, though "very, very loosely."

Fiorilli said negotiations with the Cleveland and Miho museums are still in an early stage.

James Kopniske, spokesman for the Cleveland institution, said the museum had received a request for the return of a number of objects and has been conducting research on the artifacts.

Hiroaki Katayama, head of the Miho's cultural department, said the museum had not been contacted by the Italians and did not believe it had any looted artifacts in its collection.