The U.S. East Coast has joined most of the rest of the world to welcome in the new year.

The stroke of midnight has just passed in New York, Washington and the rest of the Atlantic Coast. A huge crowd gathered in New York's Times Square to watch as an illuminated crystal ball descended atop a skyscraper to mark the exact moment 2006 began.

Hours earlier, European revelers have welcomed the new year with cheers, fireworks and, in some cases, tight security.

Londoners planned around a New Year's Eve strike by subway workers, getting to the city's center to enjoy a fireworks display with the giant London Eye ferris wheel as a backdrop.

In France, 25,000 police officers are patrolling the streets to prevent a revival of the violent riots that plagued the city for weeks in October and November.

Elsewhere in the world, Australians were among the first to see the arrival of 2006. The city of Sydney celebrated with a spectacular pyrotechnic display.

In China, some 6,000 people attended Beijing's annual New Year's concert.

Some information for this report provided by AP and AFP.