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.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora