Armed forces in eastern shift

Some 14 years after the Iron Curtain collapsed, Greece is proposing to shift the focus of its army dispositions away from the northern and western borders and to the east, the government said yesterday. Under the restructuring recommended by senior Defense Ministry officials, who met yesterday under Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou, the number of Greek men and women under arms will be slashed by a fifth over the next two years, reaching 142,000 in 2005. There are 178,500 people currently serving in the armed forces – mostly conscripts. Units in Epirus and Macedonia will be reduced, stripped of heavy weaponry such as tanks and artillery pieces, and will focus on border-guarding duties. The Larissa-based First Army and the Thessaloniki-based Third Army Corps will be disbanded, together with eight divisions, nine brigades, one parachute and three commando regiments. The proposals, due for approval next month, are expected to reduce military operating costs by 18 percent.