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Friday, 22 June, 2001, 14:46 GMT 15:46 UK
Greece steps up marbles fight
Elgin Marbles
The Parthenon marbles are housed in the British Museum
Greece is stepping up its efforts to have the Parthenon marbles returned by the UK by building a museum to house them.

The ancient sculptures were removed from Greece more than 200 years ago by British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire Lord Elgin.

The Greek Government has long fought to have the artefacts returned to their homeland and is still confident it will get its wish despite Britain's consistent refusal to hand them over.

Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos has written to the new UK Minister for Culture, Media and Sport, Tessa Jowell, asking for their return.
Horse sculpture
The sculptures were removed during Ottoman Turkish rule

Now plans are in place to create a 40m museum at the foot of the Acropolis in Athens with a space specifically for the marbles - funded by government and EU money.

The Greeks are hoping the museum will embarrass the UK Government into changing its mind as an estimated three million visitors will see an empty space designed just for the marbles.

The antiquities originally came from the Parthenon, a temple on the Acropolis.

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The frieze, which depicts the Panathenaea procession, the most formal religious festival of ancient Athens, is on display in the British Museum.

Archaeologist Professor Dimitris Pandermalis has said the Athens museum's first stone will be laid in the spring, with a view to it being completed in time for the Athens Olympics in 2004.

Part of the frieze which once decorated the Parthenon
Part of the frieze which once decorated the Parthenon

Mr Pandermalis said architects bidding for the museum contract have been requested to show how they would display the marbles.

He wants visitors to be able to see them against the backdrop of the Acropolis.

Despite the many rebuttals from the UK Government, Greece refuses to believe they will never be returned.

Mr Pandermalis, a former Greek MP, said: "I know politicians and no, does not always mean no and there is always change."

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