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The year in brief: Fire, flood, pestilence, bombs and sporting routs

But Conrad Black gets six years in jail, and the Spice Girls are back so it's not all bad news.

JANUARY: Ban Ki-moon replaces Kofi Annan as UN Secretary-General; Bulgaria and Romania join EU; England suffer first 5-0 Ashes whitewash since 1921; Interest rate hits 5.25 per cent; 'Celebrity Big Brother' contestants accused of racially abusing Shilpa Shetty; UK storms kill 17; Nancy Pelosi first female Speaker of US House of Representatives. Death: Magnus Magnusson.

FEBRUARY: 'Cash for honours' police interview Tony Blair; H5N1 bird flu at Bernard Matthews turkey farm; Helen Mirren, inset, wins best actress Bafta; Virgin train derails in Cumbria; Barack Obama bids for US presidency; 'The Departed' wins best picture Oscar. Deaths: Ian Richardson, Sheridan Morley, Anna Nicole Smith.

MARCH: BBC's Alan Johnston kidnapped in Gaza; income tax cut to 20p in ; 15 UK sailors detained by Iran; Network Rail fined 4m over Ladbroke Grove crash. Deaths: Ian Wooldridge, John Inman, Gareth Hunt, Sally Clark, Bob Woolmer.

APRIL: Iranian President frees sailors as "gift to Britain"; six UK soldiers killed in Iraq; earthquake of 4.3 hits Kent; Garry Kasparov held after Moscow demo; gunman kills 32 at Virginia Tech; passes $2 mark for first time since 1992. Deaths: Boris Yeltsin, Alan Ball.

MAY: Ministry of Justice created; Tony Blair announces departure date; Nicolas Sarkozy elected French President; Madeleine McCann missing in Portugal; Man Utd win Premiership; Chelsea win FA Cup; UK's Scooch comes second last in Eurovision; SNP's Alex Salmond elected Scotland's First Minister; UK asks Russia to extradite Andrei Lugovoi over Litvinenko poisoning; fire guts Cutty Sark.

JUNE: Lewis Hamilton wins Canadian Grand Prix; Sir Tim Berners-Lee awarded Order of Merit; wettest June on record, floods in Yorkshire; Gordon Brown takes over as PM; car bombs defused in London, suicide car attack on Glasgow Airport; south Europe temperatures hit 46C. Death: Bernard Manning.

JULY: England smoking ban; floods in Thames Valley and Midlands; Alan Johnston freed after 114 days; Live Earth concerts; Venus Williams and Roger Federer win Wimbledon; UK and Russia each expel four diplomats in extradition row; Conrad Black convicted of fraud and obstructing justice; Padraig Harrington wins Open; Harry Potter sells 8 million in 24 hours. Deaths: Nigel Dempster, George Melly, Mike Reid.

AUGUST: Centenary of scouting; Rhys Jones, 11, shot dead in Liverpool; 13 die as Mississippi bridge collapses; foot & mouth in Surrey; Greek wildfires kill 68; Tiger Woods wins 13th major. Deaths: Leona Helmsley, Bill Deedes.

SEPTEMBER: Michael Barrymore told no charges over Stuart Lubbock's death; shaky start for England in Rugby World Cup. Deaths: Anita Roddick, Marcel Marceau, Luciano Pavarotti.

OCTOBER: England lose World Cup final to South Africa; Lib Dems' Sir Menzies Campbell resigns; sprinter Marion Jones admits doping, returns five Olympic medals; Benazir Bhutto returns to Pakistan; California wildfires destroy 1,600 homes; Argentina's first female President. Deaths: Anthony Clare, Alan Coren, Ned Sherrin.

NOVEMBER: Met Police con- demned over de Menezes shooting; Meredith Kercher murdered in Perugia; England fail to qualify for European Championship; high-speed Channel Tunnel service starts; discs with 15m people's data lost. Deaths: Verity Lambert, Ian Smith, Norman Mailer, Chad Varah.

DECEMBER: Bali conference agrees 'road map' to climate deal; Conrad Black gets six and a half years; Led Zeppelin and Spice Girls concerts; Vladimir Putin is 'Time' Person of the Year; Nick Clegg becomes Lib Dem leader; Diana inquest hears she couldn't have been pregnant. Death: Karlheinz Stockhausen.