Last updated at 14:51 BST, Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Acropolis Museum row

Summary

17 June 2009

Workers are putting the final touches to the New Acropolis Museum in Athens in readiness for its opening later this week. The building has been specifically designed to house the Elgin Marbles which are in the British Museum in London.

Reporter:
Malcolm Brabant in Athens

Elgin Marbles on display at the British Museum

Elgin Marbles on display at the British Museum in London

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This is going to be a very uncomfortable week for Britain. Greece's Culture Minister, Antonis Samaras, has stoked up the pressure by rejecting what he claimed was an offer by the British Museum to loan some of the sculptures that were hacked from the Parthenon at the turn of the 19th Century.

The British Museum said it would consider a three or four month long loan, but only if Greece acknowledged that London was the rightful owner. Mr Samaras said Greece could do no such thing as it would legitimise Lord Elgin's theft and vandalism.

For years, the unsuccessful efforts to secure the return of the long sculpted frieze have been conducted in polite terms by diplomats and academics. Many Greeks have become tired of what one new movement has described as the Athens government's wishy-washy tactics. Over the past four months 100,000 people have signed up for what promises to be a more dynamic campaign. Some of them will demonstrate outside the new museum the night before the inauguration.

The group's leader, Alexis Mantheakis, said that if London could hand back India it should be capable of emptying a room at the British Museum.

Malcolm Brabant, BBC News, Athens

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Vocabulary

stoked up
literally, added fuel to a fire; here, encouraged and increased
to loan
to give for a certain period of time, not forever
at the turn of
at the beginning of (a set phrase used when talking about centuries)
was the rightful owner
had the legal right to keep
legitimise
confirm the lawfulness of
sculpted frieze
a horizontal band forming part of a classical building, often decorated with sculpted ornaments or figures
wishy-washy
lacking in firm ideas, principles or noticeable qualities
signed up for
decided to join/take part in
inauguration
here, official opening ceremony
hand back
here, to abolish colonial control over