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Prayers and wishes for peace from world leaders on New Year's Day

January 1, 2000
Web posted at: 3:36 p.m. EST (2036 GMT)

(CNN) -- New Year's Day wishes for worldwide peace and prosperity were announced Saturday by many world leaders after seven continents stepped into the Year 2000 without the feared terrorist attacks or Y2K meltdowns.

Pope John Paul II, in his first sermon of the millennium, said Saturday that humanity must work to make the next 1,000 years a time of peace. The pontiff also gave thanks that the world had been spared a global conflict during the Cold War.

Later, speaking from his Vatican window overlooking St. Peter's Square, the pope said the restless cries of those yearning for peace could not be left unanswered.

"Let us cross the threshold of the new year with the commitment to do our part so that peace becomes the daily language of peoples," he said.

During a rare televised radio address from the Oval Office of the White House, U.S. President Bill Clinton quoted President Franklin Roosevelt, who said the peace and well-being of the United States was "dependent on the well-being of other nations far away."

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"I believe his words will prove even truer in the 21st century," said Clinton. "With America fulfilling our ideals and responsibilities, we can make this new century a time of unprecedented peace, freedom and prosperity for our people, and for all the citizens of the world."

Clinton also called to congratulate Russia's acting president, Vladimir Putin, on his new position. He told Putin that the smoothness of the transition of power in Russia was encouraging for the future of democracy in the country. Putin took over when Boris Yeltsin resigned as president on Friday.

Chinese President Jiang Zemin used his New Year's Day address on Saturday to step up the pressure for Taiwan's reunification with China.

"I have to emphatically point out that the one-China principle is the basis and promise of peaceful reunification," said Jiang.

Czech Republic President Vaclav Havel focused on economics, urging developed countries to pay more attention to charity and suggesting the richer nations cancel debts to the poorest ones.

A record 18 people in Britain entered the new year as millionaires after becoming winners in the National Lottery. They'll have several days to think about how to spend their money because they can't pick up the cash until January 4.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair joined a giant millennium parade through the streets of London on Saturday and said he wanted to "bottle and keep" what he described as the country's new sense of optimism.

Aftermath of the last party of 1999

Hard work is what faced streetsweepers around the world on the first day of the Year 2000 after tons of confetti and empty champagne bottles were left behind after the last parties of 1999 celebrated the arrival of a special new year.

It was quite a celebration, a 25-hour romp from one South Pacific island around the world and back again to another with the heightened excitement that only a once-in-a- thousand-years event can bring.

Ignoring the disagreement over whether January 1, 2000, marks the beginning of the new millennium or if that honor falls to the same date in 2001, billions worldwide took note of the historic date, stamping it indelibly with song, dance, light and sound.

The festivities varied with the tastes and styles of hundreds of cultures: from a handful of native dancers and a small bonfire on a normally uninhabited Pacific island to millions in New York's Times Square, from a carefully choreographed Chinese extravaganza to more native dancers, and a final fireworks display on Samoa's main island of Upulo.

But everywhere, the purpose was the same: to say goodbye to 1999 and hello to 2000.

A few unplanned moments conspired to make the historic day even more memorable: Russian President Boris Yeltsin unexpectedly resigned; a $4.8 million Cezanne painting was stolen from Britain's Ashmolean Museum; and 155 passengers and crew held hostage in Afghanistan on a hijacked Indian Airlines plane were freed.

There were first babies born, first horse races, first marathons and first sunrises. There were even twins -- at least six sets -- born in two different centuries.

In all three cases, one twin was born shortly before midnight on December 31, 1999, and the other soon after midnight on January 1, 2000.

French train drivers were the first French employees to go out on strike in 2000, and Pope John Paul II delivered his first sermon.

All in all, it was a pretty good day, despite a few glitches here and there.

Some highlights of the day-long party:

  • Tiny Kiribati kicked off the celebrations with a Micronesian ceremony on Millennium Island (formerly Caroline Island).

  • Residents of Midway Island in the Pacific celebrated the new year twice, flying westward over the International Dateline to experience the new year in its early moments, and then back home to wait 24 hours until the celebrations came to Midway from the other direction.

  • One hundred mountain climbers toasted the new year from Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest peak.

  • Three babies were born in the first minutes of 2000 in New Zealand, making them most likely the first babies of the new century.

  • Fog shrouded Cheops' Great Pyramid on the Giza Plateau, but thousands stayed for an all-night concert where fireworks split the generally severe darkness.

  • Paris lived up to its billing as the "City of Light"; Ferris wheels lit the Champs Elysees toward the Eiffel Tower, wired with enough fireworks to make the steel structure appear as if it were ready to lift off from a launch pad.

  • Millions packed Rio de Janeiro's beaches in Brazil dressed in white for a New Year's beach party.

  • Nearly three million revelers gathered in New York's Times Square to see the new 2000 Waterford crystal ball drop.

  • Fireworks illuminated the famed "moai" -- the giant stone statues on Easter Island in the Pacific Ocean.

  • Samoa was the last place on Earth to bid farewell to 1999 and welcome 2000. It did so with native dances and fireworks.

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