Amal Clooney meets Greek PM Samaras in Parthenon campaign

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Media captionAmal Clooney on marbles and marriage

The new wife of Hollywood star George Clooney, lawyer Amal Clooney, has had talks with Greek PM Antonis Samaras as part of a campaign to return the Parthenon sculptures from Britain.

Greece has hired her London law firm to ramp up its claim to the sculptures.

The 5th Century BC treasures, known as the Elgin Marbles in the UK, are kept in the British Museum in London.

Fellow lawyer Norman Palmer said he hoped a "conciliatory and amicable resolution" could be found.

"If it cannot, then other considerations will have to be examined," he added.

The marbles - depicting gods, men and monsters - were removed from the Parthenon in Athens in 1811 by Lord Elgin, the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, which controlled Greece at the time.

'World heritage'

Mrs Clooney and her colleagues from Doughty Street Chambers in London were visiting the Parthenon on Wednesday after taking part in a news conference with Culture Minister Costas Tassoulas.

Mr Tassoulas told reporters his country was campaigning to have the marbles returned in the name of Greece but also "in the name of world heritage".

Red carpet for Clooney - by Nick Malkoutzis in Athens

Greece gave Amal Alamuddin Clooney a rare treat today as she was guided around the Acropolis Museum by its president Dimitris Pantermalis and Culture Minister Kostas Tassoulas - an honour usually reserved for foreign dignitaries.

The Greek government has asked the human rights lawyer and her colleagues to secure the return of the Parthenon Marbles - a momentous mission.

The legal complexities will come later. For now Greeks are simply basking in her celebrity glow. Local media have been poring over her chic dresses and what she had for lunch. Reporters are following her every step, literally, even debating whether she would have the appropriate shoes to walk up the slippery marble steps to the Parthenon.

During a news conference at the museum, the new Mrs Clooney described the Greek claim to the Marbles as a "just cause". She didn't have to say anything more.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Amal Clooney was given a guided tour by museum president Dimitris Pantermalis (2nd L)

The Marbles

  • Friezes and pediment figures which decorated the Parthenon temple in Athens, built 447-432 BC
  • Many were removed by agents of the British diplomat Lord Elgin in the early 19th Century, and eventually sold to the British Museum
  • Most of the surviving sculptures are roughly equally divided between London and Athens
  • The new Acropolis Museum opened in Athens in 2009. It is designed to display all the surviving sculptures, in their original layout
  • Celebrities previously involved in the Greek campaign include late actress and former Culture Minister Melina Mercouri
Image caption The Elgin Marbles at the British Museum

Greece maintains the marbles were illegally removed and should be returned for display in a new Athens museum.

But the British Museum and British government reject the argument.

A leading Oxford expert on classical archaeology, Sir John Boardman, recently warned that such a move would set an "appalling precedent" for the British Museum and museums like it.

"It would set a whole flood of things going as well," he told the Daily Telegraph. "It would... ruin any of the major museums of the world", such as the Louvre in Paris or museums in Berlin, he said.

'Very good case'

Correspondents say the hiring of Mrs Clooney will raise the profile of the Greek campaign.

She married her actor husband in Venice on 27 September at a wedding which attracted other top show business stars.

Amal Alamuddin, as she was before she married, is a Lebanese-born British lawyer who has defended Julian Assange of Wikileaks and former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko among others.

George Clooney himself backed the campaign earlier this year, when asked by a reporter at the Berlin Film Festival.

"I think you have a very good case to make about your artefacts," he said.

Image caption The Parthenon

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