Return of sculpture postponed

ROME (AP) – A visit by Italy’s president to Greece, where some hoped he might return a fragment of the fifth-century BC Parthenon frieze currently in Sicily, has been been put off. President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi was scheduled to go to Athens today. But yesterday, the president’s office said the trip has been postponed, to a date to be determined. Elisabetta Santini, in the president’s press office, said the visit was put off when the Italians learned that Greek Premier Costas Simitis was going to be abroad today. Last month, Italian officials said the fragment, now at a museum in Palermo, might be returned on a 99-year loan. But an adviser in Ciampi’s office, Louis Godard, an archaeology professor who has been working with Sicilian cultural officials about the fragment, said yesterday that Italy is planning to return the fragment for a «one-year renewable loan.» In exchange, the Greeks would lend a prestigious piece of art to Italy. Many Italian archaeologists as well as the staff at the Salinas Regional Archaeological Museum in Palermo, home to the 35-by-34 centimeter fragment, have strongly opposed handing it over.

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