Hollywood actor George Clooney has been praised by a leading Greek politician for wading into the centuries-old dispute over the Elgin Marbles.

The star became involved with the row over the marble sculptures, which were removed from Athens in the early 1800s, while promoting his new World War Ii drama The Monuments Men, in which he plays an art expert tracking down treasures stolen by the Nazis.

The Elgin Marbles are currently housed at a museum in London and the actor/director insisted British officials should hand them back to Greece, calling it "the right thing to do".

Greece's Culture Minister Panos Panagiotopoulos has now written an open letter to Clooney, thanking him for backing the country's plea to have the treasure brought back from London.

In the note, he branded Clooney "an active citizen and creative artist who adamantly defends what is just and good," adding, "On behalf of all Greeks, I warmly thank you for your statement... I hope you will accept this invitation to visit Greece for a couple of days; to see many Greek antiquities kept under the Mediterranean sun, and of course to visit the new Acropolis museum, facing the sacred rock, where a space is reserved for the return of the Parthenon Marbles that are in involuntary exile."

Clooney's The Monuments Men co-star Bill Murray has also called for the antiquities to be returned to Greece, saying, "England can take the lead on this kind of thing - letting art go back where it came from."