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THE ORGANISERS of millennium celebrations in Bethlehem hit an obstacle in their plans to see in the start of Christianity's third millennium by releasing 2,000 doves into the air from the city's Manger Square at midnight on 31 December. The problem was that the doves refused to fly.

A spokesman for the Bethlehem 2000 project said this was probably because the doves were hungry and it was too dark. "Feed them better" was his reply when asked how organisers would ensure the birds took flight on the big night.

Meanwhile, Berlin has revised its plans for a millennium light show that had been compared to Nazi spectacles of the 1930s. City officials and the company putting on the show have agreed on a new concept, which they say is less reminiscent of the "light architecture" designed by Adolf Hitler's state architect, Albert Speer.

Critics of the original design said its 250 symmetrical beams encircling Berlin's Victory Column bore similarities to the vertical light beams around Speer's enormous Nuremberg stadium, where tens of thousands gathered for Hitler's party rallies.

Under the new plan, the show will involve more multicoloured lights and have an asymmetrical design less focused around the Victory Column, which critics pointed out was a long-time symbol of German nationalism.

Fiona Bell