London-based Christie's auction house said Tuesday it would proceed with a scheduled auction of heirlooms once owned by the former Greek royal family, which Greece is trying to block.
A Christie's spokeswoman said the sale would go ahead as scheduled on Wednesday and Thursday in London, as the auction house has not been contacted by Greek authorities.
She was speaking on condition of anonymity, in line with company policy.
But Greek Culture Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis insisted that Christie's should withdraw the artifacts more than 850 items that originally belonged to King George I of Greece from sale, and provide "clear and detailed explanations" on their provenance.
"The items that Christie's desires to auction are beyond doubt part of Greek history," Voulgarakis said Tuesday.
In a letter Monday to the auction house, Voulgarakis said the artifacts may have been illegally exported from Greece, and urged Christie's to stop the sale threatening legal action, reports AP.
Highlights of the sale include giant silver flasks, Chinese jade and a gold Faberge egg worth up to 50,000 pounds (US$100,000, euro75,000). Christie's said "much" of the collection came from the former royal estate at Tatoi, on the northern outskirts of Athens, but has declined to identify the seller.
The London-based former royal family said it is no longer the legal owner of the collection, but did not elaborate.
King George I ruled from 1863 until he was assassinated by an anarchist in 1913.
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