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Italy plans to tax Catholic Church on commercial property

ROME — Over the years, the Italian government has quietly passed scores of laws that benefit the Roman Catholic Church, but it is rare for it to issue a public statement announcing it intends to strip the church of privileges.

The government of Prime Minister Mario Monti took that step Wednesday, telling the European Commission that it intends to change Italian law to ensure the church pays property tax on the parts of its buildings used for commercial ends.

The church owns vast amounts of property in Italy, and the move is aimed at making sure that convents that offer bed and breakfast or church buildings that rent space to shops pay their full share of taxes.

The change — once it is formally drafted and approved by Parliament — could result in revenues of $650 million to $2.6 billion annually, according to municipal government associations. It could also set an example for other debt-strapped European countries — most notably Greece and Spain — where there is growing popular resentment over tax breaks for the church.

—Rachel Donadio, The New York Times

Camps agree to early election in Maldives

MUMBAI, India — Rival factions in the Maldives agreed Thursday to an early election to resolve the political crisis there, after Indian officials intervened.

The country has been in tumult since Feb. 7, when Mohamed Nasheed, the country’s first democratically elected president, stepped down in disputed circumstances.

No date was set for the new election, but representatives of Nasheed and the current president, Mohammad Waheed Hassan, said that the voting could take place in a few months, rather than in October 2013 as originally scheduled. The Parliament would have to change the constitution to make the early election possible.

If the agreement holds — Nasheed did not affirm the deal Thursday night — it could defuse tensions in the Maldives, a country of 1,200 islands in the Indian Ocean that is best known for its luxurious beach resorts.

Nasheed, a charismatic figure who became a leading voice on global climate change, has said that his departure from office was effectively a coup by security forces. By contrast, Hassan and other political leaders said Nasheed’s resignation was voluntary, prompted by street protests against him.

—Vikas Bajaj, The New York Times

Chrysler withdraws energy department loan application

DETROIT — Chrysler said Thursday that it had dropped its longstanding request for $3.5 billion in federal energy loans after the Obama administration proposed tight restrictions on further aid to the company.

The withdrawal of Chrysler’s application was not unexpected. The company’s chief executive, Sergio Marchionne, said last month that he was losing hope that the money would become available anytime soon.

But the decision may reflect a greater degree of political scrutiny of any additional financial assistance to the auto industry during an election year. Last winter, General Motors withdrew its application for $14.4 billion in low-interest loans from the Energy Department after deciding it did not need the money.

Chrysler had considered the loans — intended to assist in the development of more fuel-efficient vehicles — to be an integral part of its operating budget.

—Bill Vlasic, The New York Times