5:00AM Tuesday May 29, 2007
The Elgin marbles are a huge tourist attraction at the British Museum.
The New Zealand Parliament's call for Britain to return the Elgin marbles to Greece has been welcomed by the NZ Parthenon marbles committee.
Last week in Wellington, MPs unanimously backed a motion that one of the world's longest-running diplomatic rows be ended with the marbles' return to Athens.
The Elgin marbles, known in Greece as the Parthenon marbles, are a series of friezes and sculptures removed from the Acropolis above Athens by British diplomat Lord Elgin 200 years ago. They are now housed in the British Museum.
Britain has refused to return the marbles, saying they are best preserved in London, where they are a major attraction.
Last week, Greek Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis made a flying visit to New Zealand and, on Thursday, Parliament passed this motion in the name of Wellington Central MP Marian Hobbs: "That this House joins its voice to that of other countries and urges the British Government to support the return of the Parthenon (Elgin) marbles to Greece, stressing the need for the collections of marbles in different locations to be reunited so the world can see them in their original context in relation to the Temple of Parthenon as an act of respect to one of the most significant monuments of Western heritage."
Committee chairman Bruce Blades said the stripping of the marble sculptures when Greece was under Turkish rule had been controversial for years.
"Lord Elgin sold the marbles to the British Government, which holds them in the British Museum," Mr Blades said.
"Half are in Athens and half are in London. Countries throughout the world are joining the call for the marbles to be reunited so that the magnificence of these sculptures can be truly appreciated in the place of their origin."