- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 1, 2006

LONDON — Partygoers swarmed through London to celebrate the New Year last night, undaunted by a subway strike, while a rash of car burnings hit France despite police efforts to curb the traditional year-end vandalism.

In parts of Asia, the threat of terrorism loomed large, and a bombing at a market in Indonesia killed eight persons and wounded 45.

But celebrations worldwide generally were jubilant, in contrast with last year when the devastation of the Indian Ocean tsunami led many countries and individuals to cancel festivities.

Hundreds of American soldiers in Iraq got a special show from “American Idol” singer Diana DeGarmo and other entertainers at Camp Victory in Baghdad.

More than 2 million Brazilians were expected to jam Rio de Janeiro’s famed Copacabana Beach for the largest fireworks extravaganza in the city’s history. Officials planned to set off nearly 25 tons of fireworks.

London saw many subway workers walk out at noon yesterday, but staff not affiliated with the striking union kept much of the sprawling “tube” network running.

Thousands of partygoers gathered in Trafalgar Square and outside the Houses of Parliament, to hear Big Ben chime midnight. “We wanted to come because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” said Carol Joyce, 43, who traveled from northern England for the festivities and was unaffected by the strike.

Revelers lined the banks of the River Thames to watch a massive fireworks display set against the backdrop of the giant, futuristic Ferris wheel, the London Eye.

Youths threw stones at firefighters and burned cars in scattered unrest in France, where police were mobilized to prevent a repeat of rioting that broke out last fall.

About 25,000 French police were on alert for the holiday. Every New Year’s Eve, youths set several hundred cars ablaze as festivities get out of hand.

Police were especially cautious this time because of the wave of rioting and car-burnings that broke out for three weeks starting in late October. A state of emergency imposed during the rioting is still in effect.

In a predawn tally early this morning, the Interior Ministry reported 249 vehicles burned throughout the country, including 84 in the Ile-de-France region that includes Paris. Nearly 200 arrests were reported, though it wasn’t clear how many were linked to the vandalism.

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