They bet on horses in Hong Kong, prepared for 2,000 weddings in Thailand and streamed into the temples of Angkor in Cambodia. For Bethlehem, the moment meant freedom for 2,000 doves, flying into the floodlit night outside Christ's traditional birthplace.

Last up as the millennium cascades across the globe? French Polynesia, which sits just opposite Kiribati on the international date line.

Not everybody was celebrating. In Dhaka, the capital of predominantly Muslim Bangladesh, authorities deployed 5,000 police to stop New Year's revelers from drinking banned liquor and holding street parties today. But many people planned hotel celebrations. ``We can't miss the fun,'' said Sohel Ahmed, a Dhaka University student.

Rabbis in Israel banned celebrations because New Year's coincides with the Jewish Sabbath. Police tightened security today in preparation for Christian pilgrims awaiting Jesus' return, 400,000 Muslims praying at a Jerusalem mosque and religious Jews ushering in the Sabbath.

In China, a country that adopted the Western calendar just 50 years ago, the government didn't seem to be enjoying the milestone much. It kept a close watch to prevent chaos and doomsday cult activity, and offered only limited official celebrations.

Technically, the century and millennium end Dec. 31, 2000, but the world has overwhelmingly chosen to mark the moment now.

The current calendar, supposedly dating from Christ's birth, was begun in Roman times and fine-tuned by medieval sages. It is used throughout the world to conduct business, but at a historical and religious level is often rejected. Jews, for example, view the year as 5760; for Muslims it is 1420.

What was believed to be the first baby of the millennium, a boy, was born in Auckland, New Zealand at 12:01 a.m. (6:01 a.m. EST), said Waitakere Hospital General Manager Rachel Haggerty.

And, as 2000 approached the United States, one more milestone unfolded on a smaller canvas in Allentown, Pa., where Sarah Knauss' life ended. According to the Guinness Book of Records, she was the world's oldest person - 119 years old.

She died quietly in a nursing home, some 33 hours before seeing her third century.


Copyright 1999 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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