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Greeks light candles in Parthenon protest

- by Andy Cornish

Driving rain failed to dampen the mood of hundreds of Greeks in a candlelight protest over the loss of the Parthenon Marbles this week.

Greeks gathered outside the Acropolis Museum for a candlelight vigil in the continuing campaign to have the historic sculptures returned to Greece by the British Museum.

The candlelit rally was organised by the Central Union of Greek Municipalities and was repeated in several cities and municipalities throughout Greece and the Greek islands.

The UK government came under fire last year when the British Museum decided to loan a sculpture from the Parthenon marbles to St Petersburg's Hermitage Museum for the celebrations of the museum's 250th anniversary.

It was the first time a Parthenon sculpture had been removed from the British Museum and was considered a provocative move because the 'fragility' of the sculptures is one of the reasons Britain has refused to allow the Marbles to be returned to Greece.

This candlelight vigil was timed to coincide with the return of the sculpture from Russia back to Britain just as the aircraft carrying the treasure was passing over Greek soil.

The marble statues, removed from the facade of the Parthenon by the Earl of Elgin, Great Britain's ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, have been the subject of bitter dispute.

The Earl of Elgin later sold the Parthenon sculptures to the British Museum, where the marbles have remained on show ever since.

A campaign for the return of the historic carvings has been running for several generations with the Greek government recently hiring international lawyer Amal Clooney, newly married to movie star George Clooney, to press for their return.

Greece claims the Marbles are a national monument, just like the Big Ben, the Eiffel Tower or the Statue of Liberty, and must go back to Greece.

The British Museum suggested the Russian loan was proof that Britain was keeping the marbles on behalf the world and an example how culture can rise above international frontiers at a time when Anglo-Russian relations have cooled over troubles in the Ukraine.

But former Athens mayor Dora Bakoyannis said the 2,500-year-old monument is now split between London and Athens and holiday visitors were unable to see the Marbles in their original home.

She said: "We know that the vast majority of the British people believe that the marbles should be back in Greece. We are waiting for them."

The Greek government has ruled out any immediate legal action to reclaim the historic carvings but is seeking a settlement through UNESCO which is expected to make a ruling on the dispute later this year.