New year revellers welcome 2013 with fireworks

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Media captionCities around the globe welcomed the New Year with spectacular fireworks, music and street parties

Celebrations have been held around the world to mark the new year.

More than 1.5 million people gathered around Sydney harbour to watch the city's famous firework display.

Similar shows took place in cities across the world, with hundreds of thousands lining London's Thames and big crowds gathering in New York.

Celebrations have also been held for the first time in Burma, where large public gatherings were banned by its previous military rulers.

In Brazil, more than two million people gathered on Rio de Janeiro's Copacabana beach.

New York marked the occasion with the traditional New Year's Eve countdown and ball-drop over Times Square.

Multicoloured fireworks danced up and down the world's tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, in the United Arab Emirates city of Dubai.

In the Italian capital, Rome, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated with a vespers service in St Peter's Basilica to give thanks for 2012 and look ahead to 2013.

Welcoming 2013

In Auckland, the major city closest to the International Date Line, fireworks exploded over the city's 328m (1,076ft) Sky Tower as midnight struck (11:00 GMT).

Two hours later, the huge crowds around the harbour in the Australian city of Sydney watched as seven tonnes of fireworks lit up the famous landmarks of the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House to a soundtrack co-written by Australian singer Kylie Minogue.

Fireworks lit up the skyline in the North Korean capital, Pyongyang, while South Korea ushered in the new year with the traditional ringing 33 times of the 15th Century Bosingak Bell in the capital, Seoul.

Some 100,000 people watched Hong Kong's biggest ever fireworks display, costing $1.6m (£980,000), the Associated Press reported.

Firework displays were also held in the Chinese cities of Beijing and Shanghai.

Image caption Rangoon witnessed its first public new year fireworks display

Meanwhile, Burma for the first time welcomed in new year with a big public fireworks display in the former capital Rangoon.

Thousands of people attended the event, which also included live performances and countdowns from other parts of the world.

The celebration is in stark contrast to previous years, when the only big new year celebrations took place inside luxury hotels, the BBC's South East Asia correspondent Jonathan Head reports.

Subdued celebrations

The atmosphere in Rangoon was in stark contrast to a subdued atmosphere in the Indian capital Delhi, following the death last week of a 23-year-old victim of a gang rape.

The army cancelled its celebrations across the country, as did the governments in the states of Punjab and Haryana.

Thousands of residents and clubs also called off new year celebrations, and candlelit vigils have been held for the young woman and other victims of rape in India.

Venezuela also cancelled its public new year celebrations in central Caracas after the government announced President Hugo Chavez's health had taken a turn for the worse.

He is currently recovering from his fourth bout of cancer-related surgery, but has suffered "new complications" from a respiratory infection he has caught.

Information Minister Ernesto Villegas urged families "to ring in the New Year at home, praying and expressing hope for the health" of President Chavez.

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