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World in brief

Bulldozers work on Etna lava flowON MOUNT ETNA, Sicily – With Mount Etna belching plumes of flame and ash, workers relentlessly bulldozed dirt and volcanic rock into 10-foot walls Friday, hoping to prevent lava from swallowing a string of souvenir shops and a cable-car base.

The work became more frantic after the flow from Europe’s most active volcano burned a wooden warehouse Friday morning, just hours after it poured over a protective embankment and across a parking lot that had been cleared of cars.

Officials said the lava was slowing down, but that it still threatened Rifugio Sapienza, a collection of souvenir stands, a restaurant and a ski lift base more than halfway up the volcano.

Late Friday, two new fractures opened elsewhere on Etna’s side, but officials said they weren’t threatening any structures and in fact might help ease the pressure propelling the two main lava fronts toward the Sapienza base and a town further down the volcano.

About 20 bulldozers and scores of workers, their faces blackened by ash, relentlessly pushed earth and debris to create barriers to save the Sapienza base, which sits at an altitude of 6,266 feet.

Bolivian president quits to fight cancerLA PAZ, Bolivia– For nearly three decades Hugo Banzer was a dictator and then a perpetual candidate before he was finally elected president of Bolivia. Now he is being forced to give up the reins and turn his efforts toward fighting a spreading cancer.

Minister of Information Manfredo Kempff confirmed Friday that Banzer, who has been hospitalized in Washington since July 1, has decided to step down, saying he couldn’t rule South America’s poorest nation from a sick bed. Vice President Jorge Quiroga will assume the presidency when Banzer resigns on Aug. 6 – Bolivia’s Independence Day.

Kempff spoke en route home from Washington, where he had been visiting Banzer. The 75-year-old leader is being treated there, at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, for lung cancer that has spread to his liver.

The announcement came two days after Kempff said Banzer would return to Bolivia to participate in Independence Day festivities. It was not immediately clear whether Banzer’s condition or outlook has worsened since then.

Japan’s U.S. envoy expected to resignTOKYO– Japan’s ambassador to the United States plans to resign to take responsibility for an embezzlement scandal involving the Japanese consul general in Denver, a news report said Friday.

Ambassador Shunji Yanai has already told Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi about his intention to step down, according to Kyodo News agency, which cited unidentified ministry sources.

Japanese Foreign Minister Makiko Tanaka is expected to accept Yanai’s resignation and may appoint Ryozo Kato, a deputy foreign minister, to replace him, Kyodo said.

Kyodo said Yanai felt responsible for the foreign ministry’s dismissal of Makoto Mizutani, the Japanese consul general in Denver, because he had recommended Mizutani to the post.

The Foreign Ministry on Thursday fired Mizutani after it found that he embezzled $81,600 in government funds.

Mizutani, 52, reported to Tokyo that $185,000 was spent repairing his official residence in Cherry Hills, Colo., when he began work in August 1999 as Japan’s first representative in Denver. But the actual amount spent was $112,000, according to a report issued by the ministry.

It said Mizutani used the difference of $73,000 to inappropriately purchase paintings and furniture for his official residence. Mizutani also embezzled $8,600 by padding bills to the Tokyo government, the report said.

Mizutani later repaid all the money, the ministry said.