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In brief: Finance minister long at helm resigns

TORONTO – Canadian Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, a fixture on the world financial stage, announced his resignation Tuesday.

Flaherty, who has had the job since 2006, is the longest-serving finance minister among the Group of Seven leading industrial economies. He said he is returning to the private sector.

The 64-year-old has battled a rare skin disease over the last year, but he said his decision to leave politics is not related.

Flaherty has been Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s only finance minister since Harper took power eight years ago.

Mormon missionaries to leave Venezuela

SALT LAKE CITY – The Mormon church has announced that it will pull 152 missionaries out of Venezuela because of unrest in the country.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a statement late Monday saying missionaries who aren’t Venezuelan citizens will be moved to other locations in South America.

Venezuelan government forces and protesters have faced off for the past month in demonstrations that have at times turned deadly. The Mormon church has one temple and nearly 158,000 members in Venezuela, church statistics show.

Bombings kill 18 in Baghdad, Karbala

BAGHDAD – A series of bombings targeting commercial streets and security forces in Baghdad and its surroundings killed 15 people on Tuesday, officials said.

Police officials said a car bomb also went off near shops in the Shiite holy city of Karbala in the afternoon, killing three people and wounding 16. Karbala is 50 miles south of Baghdad.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks, but they bore the hallmarks of an al-Qaida breakaway group that frequently uses car bombs and suicide attacks to target public areas and members of security forces in their bid to undermine confidence in the government.

Immigrant activist seeks U.S. asylum

TIJUANA, Mexico – A Mexican immigrant rights advocate who gained international attention in 2007 when she took refuge in a Chicago church before being deported from the United States has presented herself to U.S. border inspectors and asked for asylum on Tuesday.

Elvira Arellano and 20 other Mexican and Central American migrants crossed into the United States from the border city of Tijuana as part of a protest to demand an overhaul of U.S. immigration laws and an end to deportations.

Arellano was deported to Mexico after seeking sanctuary at a Chicago church for a year. She was deported without her U.S.-born son.

Fresco removed from Pompeii walls

ROME – Thieves have pried off a chunk of an ancient fresco of the Greek goddess Artemis from the walls of Pompeii.

Pompeii’s archaeological authorities said Tuesday the theft occurred on March 12 in the “Home of Neptune,” in an area of Pompeii’s sprawling excavation site not currently open to the public.

The thieves used a metal object to scrape off the upper corner of the fresco, making off with a faded, 20-centimeter image of Artemis, the Pompeii authorities said in a statement.

Ex-Guatemala leader admits taking bribes

NEW YORK – Guatemala’s ex-president has pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge in a New York federal court, saying he accepted $2.5 million in bribes to continue to recognize Taiwan diplomatically.

Alfonso Portillo, Guatemala’s president from 2000 to 2004, entered the plea Tuesday. In a deal with U.S. prosecutors, the 62-year-old ex-president pleaded guilty to a single count of money laundering conspiracy. The written agreement says he will not appeal any sentence of four to six years in length.

Portillo agreed with certain Guatemalan bankers and others to move the $2.5 million through U.S. banks, he said with the assistance of a Spanish interpreter.


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