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01 March, 2000
The British Committee for the Restitution of the Parthenon Marbles and Greek Culture Minister Elizabeth Papazoi have strongly condemned a British Culture Ministry statement on the issue.
The statement, provided to 'Nine Network Australia' television channel for one of its prestigious '60 Minutes program', drew a caustic reaction from Graham Binns, Chairman of the British Committee for the Restitution of the Marbles, who was interviewed on the issue. The interview was broadcast on February 27.
"I was not only surprised by the Ministry's statement, but shocked by it. It seemed that, rather than present a reasoned argument, they were casting around in an effort to make a case with irrelevant diversions. The statement admitted delaying tactics at UNESCO, was insulting to the Greek government, and was littered with prevarications. It can fairly be inferred from internal evidence that some parts of the statement emanated from the British Museum," Binns said.
"The document is a long and disingenuous 'spin'. It suggests that significant parts of the Parthenon Sculptures are in 'Copenhagen, Heidelberg, Munich, Palermo, Paris, Strasbourg, the Vatican' when, in truth, these bits and pieces amount to less than 3 per cent of the whole," he further said.
It went on to say that: "The (British ministry) statement is absurdly slanted in describing the background to the new museum in Athens. Suffice it to say here that it will be built on the site originally intended for it, but that a new design is called for in order to allow for the preservation and display beneath it of Roman antiquities discovered in the excavation of the site. This is a procedure not unknown in many of the ancient cities of Europe." Binns concludes by saying of the document that "it is totally out of order and the Ministry should be shamed by it."
On her part, Papazoi said that the British Culture Ministry's statement showed an obstructive and rather sly conception with which the issue of the Marbles is handled at service level. She said that the methods used to prevent a British Parliament committee from coming to Greece, or intentional delays at UNESCO, or the arguments on alleged human rights violations related to the issue showed a tendency to engage in petty politics which was disagreeable, adding that she did not believe that they expressed the British government.
Source: Athens News Agency