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Mormons gather to install leader

SALT LAKE CITY — Mormons stood by the thousands with upraised hands yesterday, officially installing their first new leader in 13 years.

Thomas S. Monson took over The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in February after the death of Gordon B. Hinckley, but the faith traditionally calls for a sustaining vote by members in a ceremony known as the solemn assembly.

Each church organization took its turn standing when called to cast votes in the packed conference center, which holds 21,000 people. The ceremony has been practiced since 1880, when John Taylor was named president of the church.

Mormons last held an assembly in April 1995, when Mr. Hinckley was named president. Mr. Monson, 80, is the youngest church president since 1973 and the 16th president of the American-born denomination.

Colombia fires Clinton aide’s firm

The Colombian government said yesterday it has fired Mark Penn’s public relations firm after the chief campaign strategist for Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton apologized for meeting with Colombian officials pushing a trade deal with the U.S.

Mr. Penn had met with the Colombian ambassador March 31. Clinton advisers said the meeting was not connected to the campaign, but they made clear the candidate was not happy to learn about it.

Colombian officials said they terminated their contract with lobbying and public relations giant Burson-Marsteller in response to a statement released Friday by Mr. Penn, the firm’s chief executive, who called the meeting an “error in judgment.” Mrs. Clinton opposes the trade deal.

“The Colombian government considers this a lack of respect to Colombians and finds this response unacceptable,” government officials said in a press release. The government will continue its push to have a free trade agreement with the U.S. ratified, they added.

From wire dispatches and staff reports.