White House coffee for the incomers

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The Independent US

Barack Obama and his wife Michelle arrived at the White House for coffee with President George Bush and his wife Laura just two hours before his history-making inauguration.

The two leaders and their wives posed for photos as the world waited eagerly for Mr Obama to take over as America's first black president at noon.

The meeting came after Mr Obama and his family attended a private service at St John's Episcopal Church, a tradition for those about to become president.

A smiling Mr Obama seemed calm and relaxed just hours before becoming America's 44th president while Mrs Obama showed slight signs of nerves as she initially went to shake hands with Mr Bush first, instead of with his wife.

She also handed Mrs Bush a present in a cream box, wrapped in red ribbon.

Inside the White House, the two couples were expected to drink coffee together before travelling the short distance, under intense security and scrutiny, to the Capitol for the transfer of power.

Just beyond the White House fence, huge crowds braved freezing temperatures of minus 6C and jostled for the best positions ahead of the inauguration.