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Troops patrol Washington DC ahead of Biden inauguration

WASHINGTON DC resembled an armed camp today ahead of the inauguration of United States president-elect Joe Biden tomorrow.

The Capitol, White House and National Mall were sealed off as 25,000 National Guard troops patrolled the city, fearing violence by supporters of outgoing President Donald Trump. 

Mr Trump will be the first president in 152 years not to attend the inauguration of his successor. He plans to escape to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida on Air Force One this morning  before the plane is placed at the disposal of Mr Biden from noon.

Relations between the two men remained frosty, with Mr Biden announcing that he would immediately revoke a last-minute order from Mr Trump opening US borders to visitors from most South American and European countries despite the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Trump also issued an amended order for the creation of a “national garden of American heroes,” adding new figures to be honoured in the garden including Grover Cleveland, the only US president to have served non-consecutive terms, in a hint at his continuing political ambitions.

The decor for the inauguration will be dominated by the coronavirus crisis, with hundreds of thousands of small US, state and territorial flags placed to honour the US dead — the country’s 400,000 lives lost are by far the world’s highest number — and Mr Biden and vice-president-elect Kamala Harris were due to take part in a memorial event for them last night at the reflecting pool by the Lincoln Memorial.

The president-elect has also pledged to cancel the much criticised Keystone XL oil pipeline into Canada, which was vetoed by Barack Obama but endorsed by Mr Trump. Environmentalists say the pipeline could pollute critical water resources and harm wildlife, while increasing greenhouse gas emissions. It is also opposed by Native American first nations, who say it tramples over their rights. 

Canada is calling for Mr Biden not to cancel the pipeline. Alberta premier Jason Kenney said he would seek damages if the project is dropped. Alberta-based TC Energy Corp depicted the pipeline in Democrat-friendly terms in a statement on Sunday, claiming it would spend $1.7 billion (£1.25bn) on a solar, wind and battery-powered operating system to ensure it is carbon-neutral by 2030 and would rely solely on unionised labour.

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