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Female U.S. military deserter to Canada arrested at U.S. border

By Dan Burns

(Reuters) - The first female U.S. soldier to seek refuge in Canada rather than return to duty in Iraq was arrested at the U.S. border in northern New York State on Thursday after losing her bid to remain in Canada, according to an advocacy group that had campaigned on her behalf.

Kimberly Rivera, a 30-year-old private who served three months in Iraq and came to Canada while on leave in 2007, was taken into custody at the Thousand Islands Bridge border station about 30 miles north of Watertown, N.Y., said Michelle Robidoux, spokeswoman with the War Resisters Support Campaign.

"She presented herself voluntarily, was arrested and taken to Fort Drum," Robidoux said.

Fort Drum is about 13 miles east of Watertown.

The Pentagon had no immediate comment.

Rivera, who had been living in Toronto with her partner and four children, deserted because she developed an opposition to the mission in Iraq, according to Robidoux.

She was denied refugee status by Canadian authorities and last month lost her appeal of a deportation order. She had been given until September 20 to leave the country.

Her case had drawn the attention of such international human rights advocates as retired Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who campaigned against apartheid in South Africa and urged Canadian authorities to allow Rivera to stay.

"Despite all of the ghastliness in the world, human beings are made for goodness," Tutu wrote in an opinion article earlier this week in Toronto's Globe & Mail newspaper. "The ones who are held in high regard are not militarily powerful nor even economically prosperous. They have a commitment to try to make the world a better place. I truly believe that Kimberly Rivera is such a person, and that Canada can only benefit from allowing her to stay."

Robidoux said Rivera's partner and children crossed into the United States separately from her on Thursday without incident.

"We're pretty upset on having this family being wrenched apart," Robidoux said.

During the Vietnam War, Canada was a haven for tens of thousands of draft dodgers and deserters, but soldiers from Iraq, who were volunteers, have been met with little sympathy from the Canadian government.

(Additional reporting by Allison Martell and Phil Stewart; Editing by Jackie Frank)

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