London denies Marbles deal

LONDON (AFP) – Britain denied yesterday a tabloid report that it was to send the Elgin Marbles back to Greece in time for the 2004 Athens Olympics in return for Greek support of London’s own Olympic bid. «The article isn’t true at all,» a culture department spokeswoman told AFP, referring to a report that Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell was ready to reopen talks with Athens over the fifth-century BC sculptures removed from the Parthenon by Lord Elgin between 1801-1811. «It is actually a matter for the British Museum, were they to want to send the Marbles back. But it remains the position that Tessa Jowell isn’t planning to send them back before the Olympics at all,» the spokeswoman said. The Sunday Mirror said Jowell was willing to propose a deal that would see the Marbles returned to Athens on a permanent loan provided Greece backed London’s bid for the 2012 Olympics. «It would need legislation to get the Marbles sent back, but it would be up to the trustees of the museum to approach us,» the spokeswoman said.