ROME – Italian officials warned Wednesday that negotiations with the J. Paul Getty Museum were close to breaking down and suggested the Los Angeles museum could face sanctions if a deal is not reached early next year. Culture Minister Francesco Rutelli reiterated previous demands that the museum return 47 ancient Greek and Roman artifacts that he said were “unequivocally” smuggled out of Italy over the last 25 years. Last month the Getty announced it would return 26 of the requested objects – a decision the Italians called unsatisfactory. “We are at the last chapter. Either there is a deal and all the requested pieces are returned to Italy, or there will be a break,” Rutelli said at a news conference. Rutelli said he hoped the Getty would respond to Italy’s demands by the beginning of the year. He declined to elaborate on any retaliatory measures Italy might take. Ministry officials have said sanctions could include suspension of work with Italian institutions on research, cultural studies, excavations, exhibits or artwork loans. Italy has been aggressively campaigning to recover antiquities it says were smuggled out of the country and sold to museums worldwide.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Officials for the Getty Trust issued a joint statement saying they hoped to resolve the situation and that negotiations had stalled over a Greek statue they say was found in international waters. “We want to reiterate how important it is to resolve our differences,” the statement says. “Italy and the Getty have many common interests when it comes to the arts. … We are committed to continuing our cooperative work in the areas of exhibition, conservation and scholarship.” Getty officials believe that “Statue of a Victorious Athlete,” a bronze dating to Greece around 300 B.C., was found in international waters off Italy’s eastern coast in 1964 and that Italy has no claim to it. Getty officials have denied knowingly buying any illegally obtained objects. Rutelli said Wednesday that Italian state lawyers say the Greek statue belongs to Italy even if it was found in international waters because it was brought into Italy and then exported illegally.