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A fabulous Jahangir (1605-1627) bejewelled gold and jade flask.

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Sheik Saud al Thani has dropped plans to export a fabulous Jahangir (1605-1627) bejewelled gold and jade flask, which once belonged to Clive of India.

He bought the 91/2in (24.5cm) high flask, pictured right, at Christie's spring Islamic sales in April for a hammer price of £2.6m. But the withdrawal of his application for an export licence means the opportunity has been lost to acquire the work for the nation.

Now David Barrie, director of the National Art Collections Fund, who was due to launch a fund-raising campaign to buy the flask the day after the Sheik's announcement, is calling for a change in the rules governing such situations.

"It's a terrible shame that the opportunity to secure this fabulous flask for the V&A has been snatched away from us. Once again, this exposes the central weakness in our export stop system - if an owner does not wish to take the work abroad he is quite within his rights to keep it in the UK. Unless the Sheik is willing to lend the flask to a museum in this country, it looks as if it will now disappear from public view - having been on loan to the V&A for 40 years."

The NACF, or Art Fund as it styles itself, had hoped to kickstart the fund-raising campaign with a £400,000 grant of its own.