World rings in new decade

January 1, 2010 12:00 am

, MOSCOW, Jan 1 – Revellers started ringing in the New Year across the globe with spectacular fireworks displays and massive parties hosted by world capitals against a backdrop of tightened security.

More than 120,000 Russians crowded onto Moscow\’s Red Square to toast 2010 as President Dmitry Medvedev thanked his nation for bearing with the economic crisis and evoked family values.

"The past year was not a very easy one for our country, and I want to thank you all for bearing up together," a smiling Medvedev said in a traditional New Year address.

"Our success in the new year depends on what each of us will do for his family and his country," Medvedev said.

Party-goers in the South Pacific were the first to raise their glasses to 2010, leading the world into a new decade after one scarred by war, terror attacks, natural disaster and financial turmoil.

In Australia, about 1.5 million people crowded the Sydney Harbour foreshore to watch a vast array of fireworks burst into the night sky at midnight, launched from the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge and four barges on the water.

Thousands of people also crammed into Hong Kong\\\\\\\’s harbour, where 9,000 fireworks were unleashed from the city\\\\\\\’s tallest skyscraper as well as other buildings in a display that lasted nearly five minutes.

Such spectacles were banned in Thailand, after fireworks caused a New Year\\\\\\\’s Eve blaze at a Bangkok nightclub a year ago killed 65 people.

Paris\\\\\\\’s Eiffel Tower was prepared for a multicoloured light show in the countdown to midnight while more than 8,000 police were to be deployed in the city and its suburbs, where 1,100 cars were burned last New Year\\\\\\\’s Eve.

The filling of portable containers at petrol pumps was banned, as were glass bottles and fireworks on the Champs Elysees, the Parisian avenue where hundreds of thousands were expected to gather to see in the New Year.

President Nicolas Sarkozy used his New Year address to the nation to defend his government\\\\\\\’s measures to ease the effects of recession, while acknowledging the tough challenges ahead.

"Our trials our not yet over, but 2010 will be a year of renewal," he promised. "Together we have avoided the worst, but we have also prepared for the future."

Pope Benedict XVI, in traditional prayers in St Peter\\\\\\\’s Basilica on the last day of the year, called on Christians across the world to help families affected by the economic downturn and unemployment.

In Berlin, more than one million revellers were expected on the boulevard leading to the Brandenburg Gate, the symbol of German unity, with live bands and DJs to crank up the party.

Celebrations in Britain centred on the London Eye, the giant wheel across the River Thames from the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, the world\\\\\\\’s most famous clock.

In New York, a downpour of confetti was to mark midnight at a traditional mass celebration in Times Square in the heart of Manhattan.

But after security jitters rekindled by a Christmas Day bomb plot against a passenger jet claimed by Al-Qaeda, undercover police, surveillance cameras and radiation and biological detection equipment were to monitor the crowds.

"It will be a full fledged deployment of resources," city police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said. "We assume here that New York is the number one terrorist target in America."

The US embassy in Indonesia said meanwhile it had received a warning of a possible attack on the resort island of Bali, the scene of multiple bombings targeting Westerners, but local authorities denied knowledge of any alert.

In Pakistan, where the Taliban\\\\\\\’s bloody campaign rebounded in 2009, spirits were dampened in the city of Karachi by a deadly suicide attack during a holy Shiite Muslim ceremony on Monday that killed 43 people.

"It is hard to celebrate when our city and country is passing through such deep trouble," said Zohaib Memon, 23, a business management graduate.

In neighbouring Afghanistan, soldiers maintained their alert after two deadly militant attacks claimed the lives of eight Americans and five Canadians, while two French journalists were reported kidnapped by Taliban.

For Cyprus, New Year Eve on Thursday was the last chance to smoke in pubs, clubs and cafes with a new anti-smoking law in force from January 1.

And in South Africa, President Jacob Zuma used his New Year message to rally for unity for the 2010 football World Cup — the first ever to be held in Africa.

"New Year\\\\\\\’s Day, the 1st of January 2010, marks the beginning of the most important year in our country since 1994," Zuma said.

"It must be the year in which we work together to make the Soccer World Cup the biggest turning point in the marketing of our country," he said. "We have to put the culture of negativity behind us."

New Year\\\\\\\’s Eve also presented the world with a "Blue Moon", the name for a second full moon in one single month, for only the second time in nearly two decades.


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