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Thursday, 1 November, 2001, 19:18 GMT
MPs want Elgin Marbles returned
Elgin Marbles
A Tschumi-designed museum is being built in Athens
A group of UK MPs are putting pressure on the government to return the disputed Elgin Marbles to Greece or risk "great discredit".

Labour MP Edward O'Hara led the MPs in tabling a motion in the House of Commons on Thursday calling for the return of the antiquities in time for the 2004 Athens Olympics.

Edward O'Hara
Edward O'Hara: MP for Knowsley South
There has been a long-running debate as to the future of the sculptures, which once formed a frieze on the front of the Parthenon in Athens.

The 14 MPS, including former minister and chairman of the Commons works of art committee Tony Banks, said a 29m museum is under construction in Athens for the occasion.

"This gallery will remain empty as long as the Parthenon Marbles are not available for display in it," the motion said.

Removal

"(This House) is concerned that this will bring great discredit to the British Government and the British Museum."

The 56 sculpted friezes are housed at the British Museum where they were sent after their removal from Greece during Ottoman Turkish rule

They are known in Greece as the Parthenon sculptures and date from between 447 and 432 BC.

Horse sculpture
The sculptures were removed during Ottoman Turkish rule
They depict the most formal religious ceremonies of ancient Athens - the Panathenaea procession.

In 1799 the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Lord Elgin, removed the friezes and brought them to the UK.

The Greek Government has long fought to have the artefacts returned and remains willing to make periodic attempts to overturn Britain's claim that its possession of the marbles is legitimate.

In August the Greek Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos said international pressure would mount ahead of the 2004 Olympics for them to be given back, even if only on loan.

See also:

22 Jun 01 | Arts
Greece steps up marbles fight
20 Nov 99 | Europe
Clinton backs Elgin marbles claim
28 Jul 99 | UK
Elgin marbles 'stay in UK'
09 Jun 98 | Europe
Greece renews marbles demand
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