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'Doomsday' clock to begin countdown

A city in southern Mexico has installed a digital clock to count down the time left before the December 21 solstice next year - when some believe the world will end.

The clock in Tapachula will start ticking over on Wednesday, a year before the supposed apocalypse.

Chiapas state tourism regional director Manolo Alfonso Pinot said Mayan priests will perform a ceremony at the nearby archaeological site of Izapa.

Mr Pinot said he doesn't believe the world will end, but looks at it as a beginning, in the business sense at least. "A lot of people know they can fill their body with energy if they come to these exceptional sites," he said. "If people are interested, we have to take advantage of this."

Tapachula, best known as a gritty border town crossed by Central American migrants en route to the United States, is not a popular Mayan tourism destination, but nearby Izapa is more of a draw - the Tree of Life stone was discovered there in the 1950s and is thought to convey an ancient Mayan tale.

At Izapa, close to the Tajumulco volcano, Mr Pinot says a Mesoamerican ball court, a carved stone and the throne of the Izapa ruler form a straight line that on December 21, 2012 is expected to align with the planets.

"It is hard to say what you will be able to see that day," he said.

Maya experts say the doomsday fears are a misreading of stone inscriptions that mention the date, saying the Mayans only considered it the end of one calendar cycle and the beginning of another.

The doomsday theories stem from a pair of tablets that describe the return of a Mayan god at the end of a 13th period of 400 years, which falls on December 21, 2012.

Experts say the date marks the end of a 5,125-year cycle that began in 3113 BC - and the start of another.

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