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World welcomes 2007 with fireworks, music

Revelers rang in the New Year around the globe with fireworks, cheers and kisses, but violence canceled celebrations in Thailand, where a series of nine bombs exploded in Bangkok, killing three people.
Swimmers in fancy dress take part in Looney Dook mid winter swim at South Queensferry Scotland
Swimmers in fancy dress make their way out of the freezing water after taking part in the annual New Year Day Looney Dook mid-winter swim at South Queensferry, Scotland, Jan. 1.David Moir / Reuters
/ Source: The Associated Press

Revelers rang in the New Year around the globe with fireworks, cheers and kisses, but violence canceled celebrations in Thailand, where a series of nine bombs exploded in Bangkok, killing three people.

In Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, some 1 million people gathered on the city’s famed Copacabana beach to watch 24 tons of fireworks set off. About 21,000 police officers fanned out across the city, which has seen a surge in gang violence since Thursday that has killed 19 people.

“It’s a violent city, but you can’t let that stop you from living your life,” said 22-year-old Claudia de Oliveira Conceicao, who was among about 1.5 million people crowding Rio’s Ipanema beach to watch the hip-hop group Black Eyed Peas.

'Star Wars' celebration
In Pasadena, Calif., floral-covered floats and marching bands kicked off the year with the 118th Rose Parade.

One of the highlights was the three-piece “Star Wars Spectacular,” an entry that celebrates the 1977 release of “Star Wars,” the first film in the sci-fi saga. About 200 stormtroopers led by Darth Vader marched down Colorado Boulevard as Ewoks swung from trees and waterfalls cascaded down the side of the garden planet Naboo.

The parade’s Grand Marshal was “Star Wars” creator George Lucas who rode in a 1911 Pope-Hartford, Model Y.

Festivities and violence
In London, Big Ben’s chimes were relayed by sound systems along the banks of the River Thames.

Crowds flocked to the banks near the Houses of Parliament to watch a light show countdown projected onto the 443-foot London Eye Ferris wheel, followed by a 10-minute fireworks display “big enough and loud enough to be seen ... all over the capital,” Mayor Ken Livingstone said.

New Year’s Eve in Iraq was another day marked by death. The U.S. military said two U.S. soldiers were killed in Iraq Sunday, raising past 3,000 the American death toll in the country since the war began.

Thousands of would-be revelers who had gathered at Bangkok’s Central World Plaza shopping mall complex for the event were sent home, officials said. Festivities continued in other parts of the city, though, including the famous Patpong Road red light district. Police and army troops with assault rifles, meanwhile, guarded some tourist sites, mass transit stations and traffic circles.

At least 38 people were injured, in addition to the three killed, officials said. Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont said Monday that ousted politicians rather than Muslim insurgents were likely behind the bombings. The country underwent a military coup three months ago.

Police in India arrested two suspected Islamic militants about half a mile from the site of New Delhi’s main public New Year’s Eve celebrations, a report said, citing police.

Pope's prayer
Pope Benedict XVI prayed at a New Year’s Eve service at the Vatican City in Rome that 2007 would bring the world “peace, comfort, justice.” But he cast a cold eye on some secular New Year celebrations, saying such social “rites” are “often carried out as an escape from reality.”

Meanwhile, two former Communist Eastern bloc states, Romania and Bulgaria, took another step toward the West as they became the newest members of the European Union at midnight. Fireworks thundered through the sky in the Romanian capital.

High winds and winter storms dampened celebrations in other parts of Europe. In Belfast, Northern Ireland, an outdoor concert that was to feature soul singer Beverley Knight and rock band The Thrills was called off due to the threat of gale-force winds.

Glasgow officials said high winds and rain had forced them to cancel Hogmanay, or traditional New Year’s celebrations, in the Scottish city. Edinburgh at the last minute also canceled its Hogmanay party.

In Belgium, several fireworks displays were canceled after two party tents set up for celebrations in northern Belgium blew away on Saturday.

In Spain, Madrid’s main New Year’s Eve celebration — a gathering that drew thousands to the city’s Puerta del Sol plaza — was largely peaceful, said Alfonso Alamo, head of the regional government’s emergency services department.

Elsewhere in Madrid, riot police had to disperse about 500 youths who broke windows and threw things at a nightclub after being denied entry even though they had purchased tickets.

More than 900 people were injured by firecrackers and celebratory gunfire as Filipinos ushered in the new year in frenzied revelry that persisted despite a high-profile government crackdown on dangerous celebrations, officials said Monday.

Superstitious Filipinos believe that noisy New Year’s celebrations, largely influenced by Chinese tradition, drive away evil and misfortune.

The figure — representing a nearly 50 percent rise in injuries compared to last year’s — included nearly 300 people who were injured in pre-New Year revelry in the last two weeks and more than 600 injuries close to midnight Sunday, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said.