ATHENS (Reuters Life!) - Greece's Culture Minister signed a decree allowing the demolition of a historical landmark in central Athens to improve the view for a new museum a stone's throw from the Parthenon, the ministry said on Wednesday.
Despite protests from conservationists, minister George Voulgarakis signed a decree allowing the demolition of an art deco building and a neo-classical property owned by the Oscar-award winning composer Vangelis.
Voulgarakis signed the legislation on Aug 30 ahead of a Sept 16 election and while public attention in Greece was riveted by raging forest fires which destroyed whole villages and killed more than 60 people.
"The minister took this decision under pressure ahead of the snap election and because the central archaeological council (KAS) had already taken its decision," the culture minister's press officer Evgenia Migdou said.
The new Acropolis museum, expected to open its gates in 2008 after years of delays, has spurred renewed efforts to bring the Parthenon Sculptures, known in Britain as the Elgin Marbles, back to Greece from the British Museum.
Greece's archaeological council in July agreed that the two buildings could be demolished to improve the visual continuity between the museum and the ancient Greek ruins of the Parthenon.
"We were surprised that the minister had the peace of mind to make such a decision the week that the deadly forest fires raged in Olympia and across the country," said Marina Kouremenou, owner of one of the two buildings.
The ministry said opponents could still challenge the decision.
"The owners (of the buildings) can still appeal to the KAS and to the courts if they think that a wrong decision was made," Migdou said.