MILLENNIUM CORNER; 23 DAYS TO GO

TURKEY'S Y2K committee is calling on maritime authorities to close the Bosporus strait to large ships on New Year's Eve to guard against possible accidents due to the millennium bug as opposed to over-imbibing on the part of ships' crews.

The committee is requesting that ships over 3,000 tons are barred from crossing the narrow strait which divides the city of Istanbul and controls access to the Black Sea and Russia's southern ports.

"Traffic is already chaotic in the strait and if the 2000 problem will contribute to that, we have to take measures," said Behcet Envarli, president of Turkey's Data Processing Association.

The Y2K committee is particularly concerned that, if shipboard computers fail, ships could smack into the coastline of Istanbul, which is lined with houses. "What will happen if the rudder is locked?" asked a committee official. "The ship will crash into the shore."

Meanwhile, Egypt is wavering in its plan to put a huge golden capstone on the great Cheops pyramid in Giza. The placing of the peak on the pyramid at midnight was billed as the centrepiece of celebrations which include a 12-hour "electronic experience" for an audience of 50,000 people by French musician Jean-Michel Jarre.

Local officials and media have recently spoken out against the decision to place the golden capstone made of light metal on the Cheops pyramid, saying it would tamper with a great historical monument and might damage it for ever.

Antiquities officials had argued that the crowning of the pyramid mirrored an ancient Egyptian rite that marked the completion of the building of the pyramid 4,500 years ago.

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