World News

UN Security Council Meets on Alleged Syria Chemical Attack

The U.N. Security Council is holding an urgent meeting in response to Syrian opposition claims that government forces killed hundreds of civilians in chemical weapon attacks Wednesday near Damascus.

The Arab League and Western powers including the United States have called on Syria's government to allow U.N. inspectors in Damascus to immediately visit the sites of Wednesday's attacks.

The government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad denied using chemical weapons in its latest assault on rebel-held Damascus suburbs. It accused the opposition of trying to distract U.N. inspectors who arrived in Syria this week to investigate government claims that rebels used chemical weapons earlier this year.

Russia, a key Assad ally, accused the opposition of committing a "premeditated provocation" by making claims about mass casualties from a government chemical attack soon after the arrival of the U.N. inspectors.

Syrian opposition reports of the death toll from Wednesday's attacks varied widely. Opposition leader George Sabra of the exiled Syrian National Coalition told a news conference in Istanbul the number of those killed is as high as 1,300. His claim could not be independently verified.

Syrian activists said government troops unleashed an artillery and rocket barrage against several Damascus suburbs, with some of the weapons allegedly containing chemical elements. They posted videos online showing scores of bodies of adults and children laid out on the floor of makeshift clinics with no visible signs of injuries.

The White House said it is "deeply concerned" by the reports and called for those responsible for using chemical weapons to be held accountable. It said the Syrian government must grant the U.N. investigators "immediate access to witnesses and affected individuals" and allow them to "examine and collect physical evidence without any interference or manipulation."

The office of U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he is "shocked" by the alleged Damascus chemical attacks. It said the U.N. inspection team led by Swedish scientist Ake Sellstrom is "in discussions" with the Syrian government about the day's incidents.

Khaled Saleh, a spokesman for the main opposition Syrian National Coalition, strongly criticized the reported attacks, calling the situation in the area "extremely dire."

"This really is a slap in the face of humanity, in the face of the U.N., in the face of the Friends of Syria group. It's even a slap in the face of those regimes that support the Assad regime in killing the Syrian people. What we want is for those inspectors to come in and see the people that were killed in the country side of Damascus. We want them to look at the victims, we want them to investigate who used those chemical weapons."

The mandate of the U.N. inspection team is limited to establishing whether chemical weapons - including sarin and other toxic nerve agents - were used, not who used them.

The Syrian government also has restricted the mission to investigating several specific incidents including a March attack in the Aleppo suburb of Khan al-Assal.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdrawsi
Jim Malone
October 09, 2015 12:32 AM
The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

VOA Blogs