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Friday, 31 December, 1999, 09:56 GMT
Dawn of the millennium

Paris Giant ferris wheels will be at the centre of celebrations in Paris

Across the world, people are gearing up for the celebration of a lifetime.

Some revellers are just minutes away from the 21st Century, others must wait more than a day.

Into 2000
But as the parties begin there are still concerns that extremist actions or the millennium bug will gatecrash the party.

On the small Pacific islands that will be first to greet the new millennium, at 1000 GMT, preparations are complete.

A BBC correspondent on Millennium Island, an atoll in the Kiribati chain, said the scene is set for the sun's first rays.

The latest technology will relay the new dawn to the rest of the world but the celebrations will be simple and traditional - with the millennium being greeted by a sea shell horn.

On the Chatham Islands the 750 residents will see in the new century with an influx of tourists, all facing the horizon from a windswept hilltop.

Party glitches

In Japan, firework displays and temple bells will ring in the New Year while the Chinese will have lion dancing on the Great Wall.

Elsewhere, organisers of millennium celebrations are facing last minute hitches and a lack of public enthusiasm.

Millennium Island Millennium Island: Ready for history
A planned mass wedding for 2,000 couples in the Thai capital, Bangkok, has been called off because many flights have been cancelled.

In the US and Australia, ticket prices for events have been slashed while other festivities have been cancelled altogether.

In London, a huge party planned at the Millennium Dome risks being spoilt because many of the 10,000 guests have not received their tickets.

And the inaugural ride on a giant ferris wheel, due to take place at midnight in London, has been cancelled after it failed a safety test.

Security concerns

There are also potentially far more serious problems on the horizon.

Police in the US and Canada are investigating whether an Algerian arrested carrying explosives as he crossed into the US earlier this month was part of a wider plot to plant bombs.

Ahmed Ressam Ahmed Ressam: Suspected of smuggling explosives
The FBI carried out a series of raids across the country to arrest looking for people linked to the Algerian.

Seattle's New Year party has been cancelled because of security fears.

Israel's security forces are also on high alert, concerned that religious fanatics may attack one of the country's holy shrines over the New Year.

On Wednesday, an Israeli Arab was arrested carrying a sub-machine gun into Jerusalem's holy Temple Mount complex.

Secret cameras have been installed in the ancient walled city of Jerusalem and 20,000 police are on duty around the country.

Computer bug

The threat of trouble caused by the millennium computer bug continues to cause concern.

Bugtown UK
Auckland in New Zealand will be the first big city to wake up in the 21st Century, and events there will be watched closely to see how computers cope with the potentially destructive bug.

By noon local time on New Year's Eve, New Zealand shop owners were reporting a rush on batteries and bottled water, being bought by people stocking up just in case the bug strikes.

Japanese companies have bought large quantities of bedding for employees who will spend millennium night at the office, ready to tackle any computer breakdowns.

Malaysia Malays: Warned to keep records of bank transactions
In Hong Kong all lifts in public buildings will stop running for 15 minutes before and after midnight in the hope of preventing anyone getting stuck between floors.

Nigerians have been warned to check their bank accounts to ensure the millennium bug does not erase their savings.

In the UK, the bug struck early, causing thousands of credit card machines to fail over the Christmas weekend. The machines failed to recognise the date 1 January 2000, and rejected credit card transactions.

But there is also one natural phenomenon that could dampen the millennium parties - the weather.

Meteorologists say bad weather could intervene to spoil the fun, not only in Europe, where storms have caused havoc this week, but also in the Pacific - possibly even blotting out the sight of the first sunrise.

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See also:
31 Dec 99 |  UK
UK's party of the century
30 Dec 99 |  Sci/Tech
Bearing up to the bug
30 Dec 99 |  Media reports
Islamic world's view of millennium
30 Dec 99 |  World
In pictures: World prepares for millennium
30 Dec 99 |  UK
New dawn for webcams
30 Dec 99 |  Americas
Canadian 'linked to bomb suspect'
28 Dec 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Christmas with dolphins - and deodorant
24 Dec 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Voyage to the third millennium
23 Dec 99 |  South Asia
Millennium rush for Andaman Islands
30 Dec 99 |  Millennium
UN millennium message

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