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Athens (dpa) - A massive 34-year effort by architects and archaeologists to restore Athens' ancient Acropolis to its former glory should be completed by 2009, officials said Thursday.
Haralambos Bouras, president of the Conservation of Acropolis Monuments Project, said the "urgent" effort to prevent the 2,500- year-old site from further decay should end by next Christmas.
"It will no longer be in danger," he said, adding that experts will begin working on less urgent repairs until 2009.
Experts have undertaken repairs to the main Parthenon and Athena Nike temples as well as the Propylea gate after all suffered from decades of exposure to pollution and substantial damage because of failed restoration attempts.
Restoration has been completed on only one of the four major Acropolis monuments, the Erechteion temple, finished in 1987 after eight years.
Deputy Culture Minister Petros Tatoulis said that works being conducted on the Acropolis were being sped up, as is the construction of the much delayed and long-awaited Acropolis Museum.
Originally dedicated to Athena Parthenos, the patron goddess of Athens, the Parthenon has served as a pagan shrine, Christian church, citadel and mosque. Much of the northern colonnade was seriously damaged by the Venetians in an attack against the Turks in 1687.
The Parthenon's misfortunes continued when the British ambassador in Constantinople, Lord Elgin, removed a large part of the sculptural decoration of the monument.
He transferred them to England at the beginning of the 19th century. Dozens of friezes and metopes were sold to the British Museum, where they are still exhibited.
Greece has been demanding the Parthenon marbles be returned to their homeland, saying the new museum in Athens is being constructed as a showcase for them
Copyright 2005 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH