GREEK Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis today asked Australia to pressure Britain to hand over the Elgin Marbles after Canberra successfully lobbied for the return from London of ancient aboriginal remains.
The Elgin Marbles, known in Greece as the Parthenon Marbles, are a series of friezes and sculptures removed from the Acropolis above Athens by British diplomat Lord Elgin some 200 years ago and are now housed in the British Museum.
Britain has refused to return the marbles, claiming they are best preserved in London where they are a major attraction.
"It's a matter of reunification of a very important monument of global dimension," Mr Karamanlis told reporters after talks in Canberra with Prime Minister John Howard during an official five-day visit.
"We will not spare any effort to communicate with all our friends in government, but also all the people, to join the voices which will lead to a solution satisfactory to the cultural heritage of the Parthenon."
Mr Howard said the marbles, which Greece says Britain has a moral obligation to return, were a matter for the two countries to resolve. But he signalled he supported their return.
"I have on a number of occasions raised the issue in the discussions I have had with the British prime minister, stretching back for some years," Mr Howard said.
Australia this month secured the return of Aboriginal remains which had been held in a British museum for more than 100 years.