Greece warns MPs on Elgin Marbles

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Indy Politics

A group of cross-party MPs was given a stern warning by the Greek government yesterday that Britain must return the Elgin Marbles.

The demands to the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee were made by George Papandreou, the Greek Foreign Minister, at a meeting in Athens. He told them: "I hope you have come from this discussion with greater information and hopefully some greater wisdom on the issue of the return of the marbles." The marbles were part of the decoration of the Parthenon temple on the Acropolis in Athens.

The committee, which is engaged in a fact-finding trip on the illicit trade in works of art, also met the Culture Minister, Elisavet Papazoi. Ms Papazoi said the committee's visit to Greece was an important first step. "We had the chance for the first time to start a dialogue with an institution of Britain ... And we believe is an especially good sign," she said.

But Gerald Kaufman, the committee chairman, said MPs were still undecided whether they would recommend the return of the marbles to Greece. "It is impossible for me to anticipate what will be in our report, because we have only just begun the inquiry," said Mr Kaufman.

The committee's report is expected some time before the summer, but the decision on the marbles' fate is in the hands of the Government.

The Government has always rejected demands for the marbles to be returned to Greece, insisting they were legally acquired when they were moved to Britain early in the nineteenth century by Lord Elgin, the British ambassador. Greece says they were stolen.

Before the end of its three-day trip the committee is scheduled to visit the Acropolis and the site of the new Acropolis museum, where Greece hopes the marbles will be housed if they are returned.