A protest has risen in Greece against a government plan to ship ancient art treasures on temporary loan to Paris, New York, Mosocow and Japan.

Faced with protests in the Cretan town of Heraclion, Prime Minister Constantin Karamanlis backed down and withdrew from the collection 32 ancient Knossos vases originally borrowed from the local museum.

Heavily guarded crates full of antiques from the nation's most endowed museums await shipment at Eleusis Air Force Base 15 miles west of Athens.

They represent a priceless collection of antique are to be shown at an exhibition of Aegean culture in the Paris Louvre museum next month before being sent on to the Metropolitan Museum in New York. Another collection of art treasures is to be shipped to Moscow and Tokyo.

The planned loans are Greece's contribution to an international museum art exchange program. But in Greek eyes, the project poses a threat to the country's most treasured relics.

Although the treasures will only be out of Greece a short time -- they are due to be returned in February 1980 -- universities and intellectual groups have led a widespread outcry against what they regard as the plunder of unique treasures that are too fragile for transport, they say.

Protest meetings and press campaigns have been mounted to get the "export" of the museum pieces canceled, and the socialist opposition party has offered a motion in Parliament forbidding the transfer abroad of archeological works.

An outraged Communist member of Parliament demanded that if the treasures were sent abroad on exhibition, a notice should be affixed to them stating: "These objects were stolen from the Greek people."

The government insists that every precaution has been taken for the safe transport of the antiques. It has also reminded objectors of the interest and good will toward Greece the exhibitions will arouse.

A private collection of Greek antiquities -- Cycladic figurines and vases, the oldest dating from 2,000 years before the fall of Troy - is scheduled to open May 20 at the National Gallery of Art.