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British Museum director says ‘deal must be done’ on Elgin Marbles

The president of the British Museum believes a deal is possible to share the Parthenon marbles with Greece, which has long demanded their return.

The 2,500-year-old friezes taken in Athens in the 19th century are at the center of a long-running dispute with London, which insists they are protected in the British Museum where the world can see them.

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But museum chairman George Osborne, Britain’s former finance minister, said in an interview on Tuesday night that he believed there was a “deal to be struck” to share the priceless artwork.

“At the British Museum they tell a story of civilization compared to all other civilizations, China, India, other parts of the Mediterranean,” he told LBC radio.

“In Greece, they only tell the story of Greek civilization.”

“I think there’s a deal to be done that we can tell both stories, in Athens and in London, if we approach this without a load of preconditions, without a load of red lines.”

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“I think sane people can organize something that makes the most of the Parthenon marbles, but if either side says there’s nothing to give, then there will be no disagree.”

The Parthenon temple was built in the 5th century BCE on the Acropolis to honor Athena, the patron goddess of Athens.

In the early 1800s, workers removed friezes from the monument by order of the British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Scottish nobleman Thomas Bruce, known as Lord Elgin.

Elgin sold the Marbles to the British government, which in 1817 passed them on to the British Museum where they remain one of its most prized exhibits.

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Athens insists the sculptures were stolen.

In an interview last year, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson ruled out the return of the marbles, insisting they had been legally acquired by Britain and legally held by the trustees of the British Museum since their acquisition.

Osborne noted that “I don’t want to speak on behalf of all the trustees of the British Museum, we should look at everything properly.”

“Sensible people should find something so you can see them in their splendor in Athens, and you can see them alongside the splendours of other civilizations in London,” he said.

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