World briefs: Pope faulted on abuse cases

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VATICAN -- Pope Francis is coming under increasing criticism that he simply doesn't get it on sex abuse.

The pope was asked about protecting children by the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera in an interview published Wednesday.

Pope Francis acknowledged the "profound" wounds abuse leaves and credited his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, with having turned the church around. Benedict, now pope emeritus, in 2001 took over handling abuse cases because bishops were moving pedophiles around rather than punishing them. He updated the Vatican's in-house norms and in his final two years as pope defrocked nearly 400 priests himself.

"The Catholic Church is perhaps the only public institution that has moved with transparency and responsibility," Pope Francis said. "No one has done more. And yet the church is the only one that has been attacked."

Quebec to hold elections

QUEBEC, Canada -- Less than 18 months after gaining a tenuous hold on power, Pauline Marois, the separatist premier of Quebec, called a snap election Tuesday.

Voters will chose a new provincial Legislature on April 7. She did not mention her party's signature policy, independence for Quebec from the rest of Canada, in her speech.

Israel fires on militants

JERUSALEM -- Israeli forces in the Golan Heights fired artillery shells early Wednesday at two militants who were attempting to plant an explosive device along the Israeli-Syrian frontier, according to the Israeli military.

Israeli military officials identified the militants as "Hezbollah-affiliated terrorists," referring to the Lebanese Shiite organization that fought a monthlong war with Israel in Lebanon in 2006. Hezbollah is now fighting in Syria to shore up the government of President Bashar Assad in its bloody battle against rebel forces.

Afghan president race

KABUL, Afghanistan -- President Hamid Karzai has vowed to stay out of Afghanistan's presidential race, and not to show preference or prejudice toward any of the 11 contenders.

But after what Afghan officials have described as months of behind-the-scenes pressure from the president, Qayum Karzai is expected to pull out of the election today.

An aide to Qayum Karzai said Mr. Karzai would most likely throw his support -- and considerable campaign financing -- behind Zalmay Rassoul, the former foreign minister.

20 journalists on trial

CAIRO -- Prosecutors in Egypt on Wednesday displayed seized items such as cameras, cables and microphones as evidence in the trial of 20 Al-Jazeera journalists on terrorism-related charges.

The case has drawn sharp criticism from media advocacy groups and human rights organizations.

Prosecutors did not explain how possessing equipment commonly used for news gathering linked Al-Jazeera's team to the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been designated a terrorist organization.

Pistorius murder trial

PRETORIA, South Africa -- The prosecution in the Oscar Pistorius murder trial on Wednesday sought to show that the South African Olympian was reckless with guns and willing to lie to preserve his image in the media.

Mr. Pistorius last year accidentally fired a gun in a crowded restaurant and then asked a friend to take the blame, a witness testified.

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