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US Prepares for Day of Ceremony and Celebration


US - INAUGURATION: Huge crowds of people are streaming into Washington's National Mall in the pre-dawn darkness to see Barack Obama sworn in as the first African-American president of the United States. Mr. Obama starts Inauguration Day like many presidents before him, at a traditional private prayer service at St. John's Episcopal Church one block from the White House. He and his wife Michelle, as well as Vice President-elect Joe Biden and his wife Jill, will then join President George Bush for coffee at the White House.

BUSH FAREWELL: U.S. President George Bush is spending his last morning in the White House, with plans to attend today's inauguration ceremony for Barack Obama before flying home to Texas. Mr. Bush and the first lady, Laura Bush, will attend the inauguration ceremony while moving crews quickly pack their remaining belongings. The Obamas' belongings will be moved in before the inauguration ceremony and parade are over. On Monday, Mr. Bush placed telephone calls to thank world leaders for their cooperation and friendship during his eight years as president.

US - INAUGURATION SECURITY: U.S. Secret Service and police have tight security in place throughout the nation's capital for today's inauguration activities. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security says there is no credible threat of an attack, but they are still prepared for a wide range of potential catastrophes in what is likely to be the biggest inaugural security operation ever. Overnight,police began to reroute traffic away from a three-square-kilometer area of downtown Washington, D.C. Police are also closing several bridges from the neighboring state of Virginia into the capital to restrict traffic ahead of the ceremony. Military and police helicopters are patrolling the city.

GAZA - ISRAEL: U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is in the Gaza Strip to view damage after 22-days of fighting between Israel and Gaza's Hamas rulers. Mr. Ban entered Gaza through an Israeli border crossing today. He is expected to visit U.N. facilities damaged in the fighting. Later, the U.N. chief is due to visit parts of southern Israel targeted by Hamas rockets. Israeli officials say they intend to complete a pull-out of troops from Gaza by the time U.S. President-elect Barack Obama is sworn in today. Israel and Hamas declared unilateral cease-fires on Sunday.

RUSSIA - EUROPE GAS: Russia's Gazprom says it has restarted gas shipments through Ukrainian pipelines to Europe, after halting them nearly two weeks ago during a pricing dispute. Ukrainian state energy firm Naftogaz has confirmed it is receiving Russian gas for transit. The resumption comes a day after Russia and Ukraine signed a 10-year deal renewing supplies of Russian natural gas to Ukraine and Western Europe. Russia cut off supplies to Ukraine on January first when the two sides failed to settle on a price for gas for 2009. Moscow then stopped sending gas to Europe through Ukrainian pipelines, accusing Kyiv of stealing gas -- a charge Ukraine denied.

AFGHANISTAN RAID: The U.S. military says coalition forces in Afghanistan have killed 22 militants in a series of clashes throughout the country. Officials said the coalition's ground and air assaults took place Monday in southern and eastern Afghanistan. They said one operation targeted a Taliban network in Kapisa province, killing 18 insurgents and one Taliban commander. The military also said they killed another Taliban commander and two insurgents in two raids in the Kandahar and Zabul provinces. Officials did not mention any casualties among coalition troops.

PAKISTAN SPY KILLING: Pakistani officials say Taliban militants have killed six men for allegedly acting as spies for the United States. Officials say they found the men's bodies today dumped on a roadside in the North Waziristan region. Police said notes found on the bodies accused them of being American spies. Reuters news agency reports the notes also said the bodies were a "gift" for U.S. President-elect Barack Obama, Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari. Today's incident is the latest in a string of similar killings in the region, which remains a stronghold for al-Qaida and Taliban insurgents.

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