Mayor Dimitris Avramopoulos yesterday hit the switch and turned on hundreds of thousands of bulbs decorating Athens’s Christmas ‘tree’ in Syntagma Square last night. The 40-meter-high metal pole is festooned with 300,000 bulbs and 4,000 stars in garlands said to total 60 kilometers in length. Shortly before lighting up the sky with the tree and a fireworks show, Avramopoulos had ordered a blackout in the square. We will start with the bigger units, Papantoniou said, claiming that the hiring of civilians to handle kitchen, latrine and general cleanliness duties will effectively save money by freeing military personnel for other duties, and will help further cut military service – currently 18 to 23 months long. He said conscripts will have six months cut from their service in 2003, and 25,000 professional soldiers will be hired.