World News

    Chemical Experts Begin Mission on Syria Disarmament

    International experts in Damascus have begun an unprecedented United Nations-backed mission to oversee the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons.

    Experts from the Netherlands-based Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons boarded several U.N. vehicles at their Damascus hotel and drove off Wednesday for their first working assignment since arriving in the country a day earlier.

    The international team includes 19 OPCW experts and 14 U.N. personnel. In a statement, the team said it started work with Syrian authorities on securing sites where it will operate, especially in outlying areas.

    The team also said it will "soon" begin efforts to disable Syria's chemical weapons production facilities and called for the Syrian government to cooperate. It said the international experts have been "considering the health and environmental hazards" which they may have to confront.



    Syria has promised to cooperate with the mission, which the U.N. Security Council approved last month. It is the first time the OPCW is faced with the challenge of eliminating a large chemical weapons stockpile under a tight deadline in the midst of a civil war.

    In another move, the Security Council issued a statement Wednesday, urging the Syrian government to give aid agencies "safe and unhindered humanitarian access" to Syrians affected by the country's two-year civil war.

    The non-binding statement said Syria should facilitate that access "across conflict lines, and where appropriate, across borders from neighboring countries."

    U.N. humanitarian chief Valerie Amos welcomed the Council's appeal, saying it could help aid workers to provide supplies to about 2 million Syrians who have been unreachable for months. She said the international community now has the task of turning the Council's "strong words into meaningful action."

    The Syrian government has long opposed the direct delivery of aid from across its borders with neighboring states, fearing that such deliveries could end up in rebel hands. Instead, the government requires aid to be sent first to Damascus, from where it has greater control over how the supplies are distributed.

    The U.N. Security Council's humanitarian statement marks its second agreement in a week about how to deal with the Syrian conflict. Its earlier legally-binding resolution calling for the elimination of Syria's chemical weapons broke more than two years of deadlock.

    The Council set an initial deadline of November for the OPCW-U.N. experts to verify Syria's declaration of chemical weapons sites and destroy its ability to manufacture chemical agents. Syria must then allow all of its chemical warfare stockpiles to be eliminated by the middle of next year.

    Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday he believes the plan is on the right track. Speaking at an investment forum in Moscow, he said if world powers continue working together to support the international mission, they can avoid the need for military action to enforce it.

    Syrian President Bashar al-Assad agreed to give up his chemical weapons under international pressure after an August 21 chemical attack near Damascus that killed hundreds of civilians. The United States and its allies blamed the attack on pro-Assad forces, while the Syrian president and his key ally, Russia, blamed Syria's rebels.

    The United States responded to the August 21 incident by threatening military action against the Syrian government.

    Russia reacted to the U.S. threat by persuading Mr. Assad to eliminate his previously-undeclared chemical arsenal and reaching a deal with Washington to avert military action.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeasti
    X
    June 29, 2016 6:15 PM
    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora