Athens' ancient Parthenon is not under threat from water seeping into rock beneath it, despite successive days of torrential rainfall this week, an official said Friday.
"There is absolutely no danger," said Deputy Culture Minister Petros Tatoulis.
No water was escaping through a temporary floor installed inside the Parthenon for restoration work, he said.
Architect Manolis Korres, a key figure in the massive restoration project at the 2,500-year-old monument that sits atop the Acropolis, had warned Wednesday that rainwater was gradually draining into rock underneath the Parthenon and could eventually weaken the monument's foundations.
Athens and other parts of Greece have been battered by storms and heavy rainfall this week, which caused flooding, limited power cuts, disrupted transport services and caused the death of one woman in southern Greece.
Also Friday, Tatoulis toured the site of a new Acropolis Museum with campaigners from 12 countries seeking the return of sculptures removed from the Acropolis 200 years ago and housed at the British Museum in London.
The 215,000-square foot glass and concrete museum, designed by U.S.-based architect Bernard Tschumi and Greece's Michael Photiades, is due to be completed by the end of 2006.
It will replace a small museum on the Acropolis and is designed to house the British Museum collection — also known as the Elgin Marbles.
"This new museum will weaken the arguments presented ... by the British Museum," Tatoulis said. "We will make every effort to achieve our goal. It's not a national issue, the sculptures are part of world heritage."
At a small exhibition area next to the museum site, copies of the Elgin Marbles are being displayed, in dimmed light, behind directly lit genuine sculptures.
The campaigners — from Britain, New Zealand, the United States, Australia, Belgium, Sweden, Italy, Serbia-Montenegro, Spain, Cyprus, Russia and German — were received Friday by President Karolos Papoulias and Prime Minister Costas Caramanlis.
They announced plans to coordinate their activities as a single body to be called the International Organization for the Reunification of the Parthenon Marbles.
"The problem is the obstinacy of the British Museum ... there are many ways this could be negotiated if we were dealing with someone who would negotiate," British campaigner Anthony Snodgrass said.
"We are no longer confronting the British Museum but surrounding them," Snodgrass said. "We've enlisted many of their former allies, who now support us."
This piece from the ANA seems to add some explanatory detail for all these folks being together:
President of the Republic Karolos Papoulias and Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Friday received presidents and members of 12 committees in foreign countries that are campaigning for the return of the Parthenon Marbles to Greece.
The representatives of the various groups announced plans to create a single worldwide organisation for the return of the priceless statues, also known as the Elgin Marbles, that are held at the British Museum in London. The statues on display in the British Museum actually formed part of the sculpted frieze of the Parthenon - which was a structural rather than decorative element of the building - that were removed by Lord Elgin in the 19th century and transported to England when Greece was still under Ottoman rule.
After the meeting, Papoulias thanked them for their "valiant efforts" and stressed that the Parthenon Marbles were "the victims of plunder, in a period of history when the strong had the power of life and death over the weak".
The world now served other values and there was a moral obligation to return the treasures of Greek civilisation to their home, he added.
The head of the British Committee for the Restitution of the Parthenon Marbles Anthony Snodgrass noted that there are currently 15 organisations throughout the world that are striving for the Marbles' return.
The visiting delegation was accompanied by Deputy Culture Minister Petros Tatoulis, who later took them on a tour of the Acropolis.
Earlier on Friday, Tatoulis was also present at a meeting between the delegation and Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, where he thanked them for their efforts and stressed the great interest of the Greek side in their return.
... and this piece, from ME Times, glosses the first bit:
Greek archaeologists worry that the foundations of the Acropolis monument are threatened by rainwater that has seeped into the soil of the ancient citadel, the Greek press said on Thursday..
Of most concern is the fifth-century BC Parthenon temple, whose roof was destroyed during a seventeenth-century siege of the Acropolis by Venetian forces.
"For centuries, rainwater could not penetrate the foundations," Manolis Korres, an architect with extensive experience of the Acropolis restoration effort told a recent gathering of Greece's state archaeological council.
"But in the wake of the roof's collapse, water has been seeping into the floor supports and wearing down the rocks ... the surface is retreating," Korres said, according to a report in Eleftherotypia daily.
The threat of further damage has led experts to contemplate covering the Parthenon with a modern roof, Ta Nea daily said.
"We are closely following the problem," Acropolis site supervisor Alkistis Horemi said. "Special machinery is used to monitor the walls surrounding the monument site at all times."
Test drilling carried out on four occasions has discovered cavities under and around the Parthenon, said Korres. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that an ancient drainage system built into the site no longer functions.
The Acropolis, a World Heritage site, has been undergoing restoration for over 20 years. The majority of these works are expected to be completed by late 2006