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OSCAR (tm) nominated Malakas of the month: May 2001

 Runner-up Malakas of the month Blair Won't Return Parthenon Marbles

ATHENS, Greece (AP) - British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Saturday rejected long-standing demands by Greece for the return of ancient sculptures removed from the Parthenon 200 years ago.

Commonly known as the Elgin Marbles, the sculptures that decorated the Parthenon were taken by Lord Elgin, Britain's ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, and are now housed in the British Museum.

``The marbles belong to the British Museum ... which does not intend to return any part of the collection to its country of origin,'' Blair said in an interview published Sunday in the Athens daily To Vima.

The collection has been the subject of a decades-long diplomatic dispute between Britain and Greece. Athens is pressing for their return by 2004, when the city will host the Olympic Games, and is planning to build a museum in the center of the capital to house them.

Blair held talks in London with Greek Premier Costas Simitis on Tuesday.

``I know my reply will disappoint many of your readers,'' Blair told To Vima. ``But one should consider the fact that six million people visit the British Museum every year and they can appreciate the beauty of the Parthenon Sculptures and Greece's special contribution to world civilization.''

Definitely a winner in the political section of the "Malakas of the Month".
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