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2000 Dawns: Yeltsin Quits, Y2K Fizzles, Indian Hijack Hostages Freed, Cabinet Papers Released

Sydney HarbourThe new century began today with fireworks spectaculars around the world. Australia was amongst the first nations to usher in what many incorrectly regard as the new millennium.

Fireworks displays in Sydney and Melbourne were attended by hundreds of thousands of people. Now only the United States and islands west wait to herald the new year. Click here to watch MS-NBC television coverage.

In a dramatic move that kept politics to the forefront on new year’s eve, Russian President Boris Yeltsin announced his immediate resignation, television cameras capturing the handover of the nuclear briefcase to current Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Pundits speculate that Yeltsin’s departure is designed to assist Putin to win an early presidential election as the war in Chechnya drags on.

No major problems have been reported with the Year 2000 (Y2K) computer bug. Around the western world and elsewhere, computer systems appear to have handled the rollover to the new year without significant difficulty.

The Indian hijacking crisis is over following the release of 155 passengers who have now been flown to Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi. The government of Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee arranged the hostages’ freedom by freeing three men convicted of terrorism-related charges in connection with Kashmir, a Himalayan region claimed by both India and Pakistan. The fate of the hijackers is not yet clear.

In Australia, Cabinet documents from 1969 have been released under the 30 year rule which show that the then coalition government led by John Gorton experienced a major internal debate about Australian participation in the Vietnam war. In a revelation that will enhance Gorton’s reputation, it appears that Gorton argued in favour of an immediate withdrawal, whilst Country Party leader John McEwen and senior Minister William McMahon favoured continued involvement as means of maintaining the alliance with the United States.

In revelations that will further diminish his already poor reputation, McMahon, who was Prime Minister between 1971 and 1972, before losing office to Labor’s Gough Whitlam, is depicted in an article in today’s Sydney Morning Herald as an inveterate leaker of Cabinet documents.