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Fresh delay for Acropolis Museum

Inauguration of Athens' "ultra-modern" new Acropolis Museum has once again been delayed, Greek authorities announced. The brand-new facility features an empty room reserved for the Parthenon's "Elgin marbles", owned by the British Museum.

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The opening of a new, ultra-modern Acropolis museum located below the ancient Athens landmark has been pushed back until February or March next year, Culture Minister Michalis Liapis said Tuesday.

"We had said the museum would open its doors towards the end of the year, but the inauguration will be delayed by two months or so," said Liapis after a visit to the building.

A February or March opening was a more realistic goal, he added.

Liapis also said he was in talks with Greek choreographer Dimitris Papaioannou, who oversaw the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, about organising the inauguration ceremony for the new museum.

The new three-level museum, at 25,000 square metres (270,000 square feet), includes a room on the top floor with an area reserved for the Elgin, or Parthenon Marbles.

They are currently located at the British Museum in London, but Greece is continuing its campaign to persuade Britain to return the priceless friezes.

The British Museum in London has always refused to repatriate the friezes, removed in 1806 by Lord Elgin, British ambassador to the occupying Ottoman Empire of the time.

At the end of September the museum which is already partly open is scheduled to show ancient masterpieces to mark Athens' determination to fight against what it has described as the pillaging of its antiquities.

The museum, designed by Franco-Swiss architect Bernard Tschumi, had originally been scheduled to open in time for the 2004 Olympics.

Those plans were derailed by a series of technical and bureaucratic problems that delayed the signing of the 129-million-euro building contract.

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