US authorities said on Wednesday they expect this week to seize a 70-million-year-old dinosaur skeleton that was discovered in Mongolia more 65 years ago and now is stored in New York and at the center of an international legal dispute.

A federal judge in New York has signed a warrant that allows the US Department of Homeland Security to seize the skeleton of the Tyrannosaurus bataar - an Asian cousin of the North American Tyrannosaurus rex - from Dallas-based Heritage Auctions.

"We should have it by the end of the week," said Luis Martinez, a spokesman for USImmigration and Customs Enforcement.

The seizure will be a "major step forward" for the government of Mongolia, which is claiming sovereign ownership and seeking the skeleton's return, said Robert Painter, a Houston attorney who represents Mongolian President Elbegdorj Tsakhia.

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