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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 January, 2004, 15:36 GMT
Talks planned over Elgin Marbles
Parthenon frieze
The Parthenon carvings are some of the finest ever produced
The UK and Greece are to hold talks on the Parthenon sculptures, hundreds of which were cut from the temple by Lord Elgin and sold to the British Museum

"The best way of taking this forward is by way of discussions between the two cultural ministers," Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said.

He spoke after he and Tony Blair discussed the issue with Greek foreign minister George Papandreou in London.

A new campaign began this month for the 2,500-year old sculptures to be united.

Reunification

"We have our views," said Mr Papandreou after Thursday's meeting. Greece has called for years for the reunification of the marble sculptures - some of the finest artworks ever produced.

In places the frieze which ran round the temple on the Acropolis of Athens depicts five, six and seven horsemen riding almost abreast, in a depth of carving which never exceeds two and a quarter inches (six centimetres).

Lord Elgin's agents stripped hundreds of sculptures from the Parthenon in 1801-2 and sold them to British Museum in 1816. Of the surviving items some 90 are in London and 97 in Athens - in many cases part of a figure is in London and part in Athens.

Parthenon
Hundreds of sculptures were cut from the Parthenon in 1801-2

Mr Papandreou said the culture ministers would discuss the issue "soon".

A campaign group, Marbles Reunited, began a fresh campaign for the Marbles' return this month.

The Greek government is now offering to accept the London sculpures as a loan, sidestepping the issue of ownership, and combining them with those sculptures still in Greece in a specially built museum on the Acropolis.

The UK Government has always backed the British Museum, which inists that it is the best place for Lord Elgin's marbles, and that its Trustees have a duty to hold them so as to secure maximum public benefit.




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