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Construction will begin next month on Egypt's long-awaited new museum, which officials say will house one of the world's largest historical collections.

The foundation stone will be laid sometime in January on a 600,000-square-yard plot on the outskirts of Cairo, Culture Minister Farouk Hosni told the Middle East News Agency.

Blueprints for the building, completed in Italy, took four years on a $1.5 million grant from the Italian government. Construction will cost $400 million, Hosni said.

The ministry will call for an international loan to build the museum, he said.

The existing Egyptian Museum, opened in downtown Cairo in 1902, has long had too little exhibition space. Many of its pharaonic, Coptic, Islamic and other treasures are stored in the basement.

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