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US opposes penalty for Russia over historic books

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WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is opposing a Jewish group's bid to levy civil fines against Russia for failing to return its historic books and documents.

The legal dispute has already had the unintended consequence of halting the loan of Russian art works for exhibit in the United States. And the Justice Department argues sanctions would be contrary to U.S. foreign policy interests and inconsistent with U.S. law.

The New York City-based orthodox Jewish group convinced federal judge Royce Lamberth in Washington it has a valid claim to the tens of thousands of books and manuscripts, some 500 years old, which record its core teachings. Lamberth ordered the records delivered to the U.S. embassy in Moscow or to the group.

Russia refused. It says the works are part of Russia's national heritage.