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Greece drops potential legal bid to get Parthenon Marbles back from Britain

Advocacy groups seeking to get the British Museum to return the Parthenon Marbles to Athens expressed disappointment Thursday after Greece's culture minister said he would not launch a court challenge for the famous collection.

Greek culture minister said Athens would seek 'diplomatic route' instead

This headless sculpture of the river god Ilissos is one of the Parthenon Marbles loaned to Russia by a British museum. Greece's culture minister upset advocacy groups Thursday when de declared that Athens would not sue Britain to return the famous collection. ( AP Photo/British Museum)

Advocacy groups seeking to get the British Museum to return the Parthenon Marbles to Athens expressed disappointment Thursday after Greece's culture minister said he would not launch a court challenge for the famous collection.

The sculptures, which for more than 2,000 years decorated the Parthenon temple on the Acropolis in Athens, were removed more than two centuries ago by Lord Elgin, a Scottish nobleman, and are on display at the London museum.

Culture Minister Nikos Xydakis on Wednesday said Athens would not seek court action against the museum but preferred a "diplomatic route."

Greek position 'devastated'

Dennis Menos of the International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures said the decision by the new government in Athens had "devastated the Greek position."

Human rights lawyer Amal Clooney seen here visiting a museum in Athens last October had advised the Greek government in its battle to repatriate the ancient statues from Britain. (Yorgos Karahalis/Reuters)
"I'm sorry that this statement was made. (Court action) was always an option and now that has been eliminated," Menos told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

The prospect of a legal challenge gained momentum last year when a team of London lawyers, including Amal Clooney, wife of the U.S. film star George Clooney, visited Athens and met officials from Greece's previous conservative government.

Xydakis, the culture minister, said the legal initiative was funded by an anonymous private donor and was still ongoing. But he added, speaking to private Mega television: "It's a diplomatic route and a political one for [Greece]. You cannot go to court for every issue. And in international court, the outcome is always uncertain. Things are not that simple."

The Acropolis Museum, which opened at the foot of the ancient citadel in 2009, was built in part to house the Parthenon marbles if they are returned. The site is the most visited museum in Greece, attracting nearly 1.4 million visitors in 2014.

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