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Australia eases sanctions against Myanmar

YANGON | Australia said Monday it is easing some restrictions on members of Myanmar’s ruling elite in response to political reforms by its military-backed government.

The decision came as the party of Myanmar democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi began gearing up to contest by-elections on April 1.

Her National League for Democracy party has cautiously endorsed reforms instituted by President Thein Sein that include legalizing labor unions and freeing some political prisoners.

Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd announced the easing of sanctions during a visit to Indonesia, Australia’s Foreign Affairs Department said.

IRAQ

Car bombs kill 17, target Shiit pilgrims

BAGHDAD | Three car bombs exploded Monday evening in the Iraqi capital and killed at least 17 people, authorities said. At least one appeared to target Shiite pilgrims, sinking the country deeper into a new wave of sectarian violence.

A second car bomb struck near a police vehicle in the Shiite neighborhood of al-Shaab, killing three policemen and four other people, police and hospital officials said. Earlier in the day, a roadside bomb killed two Shiite pilgrims in a Baghdad suburb.

The attacks were the latest in a wave of violence primarily targeting Shiites that has killed more than 90 people in less than a week.

GREECE

Picasso, Mondrian paintings stolen in pre-dawn heist

ATHENS | Thieves carried out a well-organized, pre-dawn heist at Greece’s biggest state art museum on Monday, taking two oil paintings by 20th century masters Pablo Picasso and Piet Mondrian, police said.

A police statement said the burglars who entered through a balcony door also took a pen-and-ink drawing of a religious scene by Italian 16th century painter Guglielmo Caccia.

Police said the heist took about seven minutes. The thieves had intentionally set off alarms on several occasions since Sunday evening without actually entering the building, prompting guards to disable at least one.

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