Advocacy groups seeking to get the British Museum to return the Parthenon Marbles to Athens have expressed disappointment after Greece's culture minister said he would not launch a court challenge for the famous collection.

The sculptures, which for more than 2,000 years decorated the Parthenon temple on the Acropolis in Athens, were removed more than two centuries ago by Lord Elgin, a Scottish nobleman, and are on display at the London museum.

Culture Minister Nikos Xydakis on Wednesday said Athens would not seek court action against the museum but preferred a "diplomatic route."

Dennis Menos of the International Association for the Reunification of the Parthenon Sculptures said the decision by the new government in Athens had "devastated the Greek position."