Morrison, James, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
LOSING ONE'S MARBLES
When he first saw the looted treasures of ancient Greece in the British Museum, he was a 14-year-old Greek tourist in London.
"I was offended," Evangelos Venizelos said yesterday, recalling his impression of the infamous Elgin marbles.
Today at age 40, Mr. Venizelos is the Greek minister of culture and is fighting to get them back.
Visiting here this week, he said he seeks U.S. support to help him pressure the British into returning the massive haul of statues and sculpted marble slabs taken from the Parthenon in Athens in the early 19th century by Scotsman Thomas Bruce, the seventh Earl of Elgin.
Bruce was then British ambassador in Constantinople and Greece was ruled by the Ottoman Turks, who allowed him to take the marbles. The Greeks today argue the Turks had no right to give them away and the British have no right to keep them.
Mr. Venizelos said he is trying the diplomatic approach with London, asking politely for their return. If the British refuse, as they have before, the Greeks are prepared to sue in international courts.
"The Parthenon is the symbol of Western civilization," he said.
Mr. Venizelos said the United States has already demonstrated "good behavior" concerning disputed ownership of antiquities by returning a trove of 3,500-year-old Mycenaean gold treasures that had been purchased years earlier on the black market by a U.S. collector.
Mr. Venizelos arrived in New York earlier this week to open an exhibition on "The Glory of Byzantium" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
He is also promoting a major exhibit of Byzantium artifacts that will be displayed in June in Thessalonica, Greece, this year's designated "cultural capital" of the European Union. The exhibit will feature treasures held by the Monastic Republic of Mount Athos in northern Greece.
The U.S. ambassador to Colombia stirred up more controversy this week by revealing that Colombian drug lords offered to provide evidence that President Ernesto Samper accepted drug money.
Ambassador Myles Frechette's comments Wednesday came on the same day that Colombia said it was temporarily suspending a drug crop eradication program after Washington decided to declare that Colombia was failing to cooperate in the drug war for the second consecutive year. …