'Not appropriate'

But Dimitris Droutsas, the Greek deputy foreign minister, dismissed the idea saying: "I've also heard the suggestion we should sell the Acropolis. Suggestions like this are not appropriate at this time."

Greece's deficit was 12.7 per cent of GDP in 2009, well ahead of the EU's 3 per cent of GDP limit.

The nation has launched an austerity programme, including tax hikes, raising the retirement age and a freeze on public wages, designed to secure European help to tackle its crippling debt burden.

But opinion polls show Germans are overwhelmingly against taxpayers bailing out Greece.

"The chancellor cannot promise Greece any help," Schaeffler told the newspaper in a story with the headline: "Sell your islands, you bankrupt Greeks! And sell the Acropolis too!"

Asked why he made those controversial comments, Schaeffler told Al Jazeera: "I think Greece has to save money - and if you need to save money then you must sell your jewellery so to speak.

"That's what Greece should do. They must privatise to raise money, that's what I said to Bild newspaper."

Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, will meet George Papandreou, the Greek prime minister, in Berlin on Friday.