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Friday, 31 December, 1999, 11:19 GMT
Kiribati kicks off the party
Dancers welcome the new millennium in Kiribati
Dancers welcome the new millennium in Kiribati
Dancers on a coral beach in a tropical atoll named Millennium Island have welcomed the third millennium.

Into 2000
President Teburoro Tito of Kiribati, which includes Millennium Island among its territory, uttered the first words of the new millennium, as his cabinet and 70 Micronesian dancers welcomed in the new year on behalf of the rest of the world.


Let us put aside all divisions - let us unite in love and peace

Dancers on Millennium Island
In a symbolic act, a little boy was handed a burning torch by the president, which he then handed to an old man in a traditional canoe.

The "torch of peace and hope" will be passed on to the rest of the world.

Traditional display

The BBC's Mike Donkin on Millennium Island says extraordinary scenes greeted the new year.

The 'torch of peace' was handed to a boy
Dancers in swaying grass skirts and head-dress welcomed the millennium with a traditional call for good luck, after chanting farewell to the pain of the past and heralding a new time of unity.

"Let all the world be joined with us to greet the new millennium," they sang.

"Let us put aside all divisions - let us unite in love and peace."

As they chanted the dancers swayed to the rhythm of giant box drums, beaten by the elders.

All the costumes worn by the dancers were made up of natural materials and their bodies glistened with coconut oil.

The millennium's first dawn over land will break near Dibble Glacier in Antarctica at 12:08 local time (1508 GMT).

Kiribati will be the first nation to witness the first sunrise of the new millennium at 0543 local time (1543 GMT), followed 26 minutes later by New Zealand's Pitt Island.

Millennium Island is a tiny, normally uninhabited atoll made up of palm beaches and a coral sea.

It took the dancers three weeks to reach the island from the Kiribati capital, Tarawa.

See also:

31 Dec 99 | Asia-Pacific
31 Dec 99 | UK
30 Dec 99 | Media reports
24 Dec 99 | Asia-Pacific
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