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US Greets New Year With Caution - 2004-01-01


Americans are marking the first day of the New Year under heightened security, after a relatively peaceful celebration at midnight. Authorities have been giving particular attention to the threat of airline safety, canceling two incoming flights and detaining passengers on others for questioning.

British Airways canceled one of their Washington-bound flights from London Thursday, for security reasons.

The same flight was detained upon arrival at Dulles airport Wednesday and all passengers and crew held for several hours for extra screening by U.S. authorities. Media reports say that in the past several days U.S. officials have conducted extra security screenings of passengers on other incoming flights.

On Wednesday, U.S. authorities canceled a flight bound for Los Angeles from Mexico. Landing rights were reportedly denied because of security concerns. News reports say another plane from Mexico earlier in the week was forced to turn back mid-flight.

Security is also tight at the Rose Bowl parade and football game in Pasadena, California, among the most popular New Year's Day events. Special biological and chemical weapons sensors have been installed at the football stadium, and the tens of thousands of spectators are being screened upon arrival. Security was also stepped up for the midnight celebrations, with sharpshooters set up around New York's Times' Square and extra police on hand to screen revelers at the traditional New Year's Eve gathering spot. Helicopters and fighter jets patrolled the skies over New York and several other major cities.

Earlier this week, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said evidence terrorists are eyeing commercial planes either as a target or weapon prompted new airline security measures that include requesting foreign carriers to put sky marshals on certain flights. The nation is currently at Code Orange, the second highest terror threat level.

Meanwhile, in his New Year's message, President Bush encouraged Americans to reaffirm their commitment to peace and freedom around the world.

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