SYDNEY, Jan 1, 2010 (AFP) - 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.
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.
|The New Year's Eve fireworks based on the theme 'Awaken the Spirit' explode over the Sydney Harbour Bridge on January 1, 2010 (AFP photo)|
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.
Police minister Michael Daley urged revellers to keep a lid on their drinking.
"If you're one of these fools that can't handle their grog and likes to go out and ruin other people's nights, make yourself a New Year's resolution to grow up and behave yourself and start practising that on New Year's Eve," he said.
Thousands of people also crammed into Hong Kong's harbour, where 9,000 fireworks were unleashed in a display that lasted nearly five minutes, shot off from the city's tallest skyscraper as well as other buildings
But in Thailand, police banned fireworks after a New Year's Eve blaze at a Bangkok nightclub a year ago killed 65 people.
Paris's Eiffel Tower was ready to be transformed into a multicoloured light show for its party while 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."
In Finland, a lone gunman chose the last day of the year to kill four people in a rampage in a shopping mall. He also murdered a former girlfriend and was later found dead himself.
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 second full moon appearing in for the month -- for only the second "Blue Moon" in nearly two decades.