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Genoa deserted ahead of summit

Streets were deserted, cafes were empty, stores were closed, many with wooden planks nailed over their windows.

As the gates of a steel and concrete barrier, which seal off its medieval center, were shut Wednesday, Genoa _ usually a busy port city _ looked more and more like a ghost town before the start of a summit of the leaders of the world's industrial powers.

Few Genoese walked in the city's center, made up of dozens of cobblestone alleys. No private cars were allowed inside the "red zone," the restricted area around the old harbor and the Palazzo Ducale, the main venue for the Group of Eight summit starting Friday. Residents, journalists and delegates need passes to get in.

Instead, hundreds of police were deployed across the city, patrolling the gates and driving their vehicles up and down the empty streets. By the time the heads of the G-8 countries arrive, there will be 20,000 police _ the biggest security operation here since the 1985 visit of Pope John Paul II.

The four McDonald's restaurants in town were closed, their windows protected with wooden planks. The fast-food giant has become the target of anti-globalization protesters at international gatherings.

A parcel bomb went off Wednesday in the Milan offices of a television station owned by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, slightly injuring the secretary who opened it. Another device exploded at the office of clothing giant Benetton in Treviso, near Venice, but no one was injured.

It wasn't clear, however, if the incidents were related to anti-globalization demonstrations that are planned for the G-8 summit.

Anti-globalization protesters, meanwhile, started pouring in on Wednesday.

The first special train, carrying an estimated 700 to 800 people from Rome, arrived in Genoa's empty Brignole station, where scores of police were waiting.

Some of the demonstrators carried makeshift shields made of plastic and cardboard; others had padded cardboard armor to cushion against blows. They were all heading to a stadium where hundreds of others are camping out and then toward a tent near the waterfront.

The government kept one Genoa train station open as part of an agreement with anti-globalization activists. The Genoa Social Forum, which is organizing protests, said it expected up to 30,000 people today, arriving aboard some 25 special trains.

BUSH IN BRITAIN: President Bush arrived in London on Wednesday at the start of a six-day visit to Europe. He was accompanied by his wife, Laura, and one of their 19-year-old twin daughters, Barbara. Aides said the Bushes' other daughter, Jenna, stayed home because of a summer job.

Bush is having lunch with Queen Elizabeth today and meeting with Prime Minister Tony Blair before heading to Italy for the annual summit of the world's seven largest industrial democracies, plus Russia.