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Acropolis museum headed for completion



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ATHENS, Oct 25 (AFP) - Construction of Greece's new Acropolis museum, which has dragged on for four years, will be finished by the end of 2006, Deputy Culture Minister Petros Tatoulis said in a statement Tuesday.

In June, after an unannounced visit to the site at the foot of the famous Athens landmark, Tatoulis outlined the delays in the project and called on the Organization for the Construction of the New Acropolis Museum (OANMA) to accelerate the works.

OANMA's director, Nicos Damalitis, had given assurances that "the work advances in accord with the high technical standards and quality requirements" and that "all matters affecting its execution by the enterprise have been resolved", the minister's statement said.

In November 2004, Tatoulis signed a new contract for construction of the museum, which was supposed to be completed in time for the 2004 Athens Olympics.

The three-storey building -- 23 metres high, covering 25,000 square metres and costing 129 million euros (156 million dollars) -- was designed by Franco-Swiss architect Bernard Tschumi.

Construction stalled because of lawsuits claiming the museum would destroy historic remnants on the site.

Residents, architects and Greek and foreign intellectuals campaigned against the project, arguing the museum's bulk would spoil the World Heritage-listed Acropolis.

The project is a key part of Greece's strategy for pressuring the British Museum to return the Parthenon Marbles, removed by the British diplomat Thomas Bruce, the 7th Earl of Elgin, in the early 1800s.

If the sculptures were returned to Greece, they would be housed in the new museum.

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COPYRIGHT 2005 Agence France-Presse. All rights reserved.

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