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Athens To Ban Cars During Experiment

Residents of smog-choked central Athens can breathe a little more freely from April to June, when most cars will be banned in an experiment aimed at turning historic areas into pedestrian walkways.

Only public buses and neighborhood residents will be allowed to drive in the 1-square-mile area, including a zone around the Acropolis, Environment Minister Costas Laliotis said Tuesday.

Air pollution in the city of 4 million people and 1 million cars and trucks is near danger limits on most days. To fight pollution, cars are allowed into the city center only on alternate days based on their license plate numbers.

If the experiment in central Athens succeeds, restrictions could be spread to other districts, Laliotis said. According to his ministry, 120,000 people work in the area and 70,000 cars pass through there every day.

A partial traffic ban has been in effect for 10 years around the Acropolis to protect its Parthenon from damage by pollution and traffic vibration.

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