World News

UN to Visit Alleged Damascus Chemical Attack Site Monday

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says U.N. personnel will begin inspecting the site of a major suspected chemical attack near Damascus on Monday.

In a statement released by his spokesman on Sunday, Mr. Ban said the Syrian government agreed to "provide the necessary cooperation" for the U.N. team to investigate the August 21st incident.

Mr. Ban said that cooperation includes ceasing hostilities in the area of the attack in the rebel-held Damascus suburb of Ghouta.

A senior Obama administration official dismissed the Syrian government's offer to let the U.N. inspectors access the site, calling it "too late to be credible."

The U.S. official said there is "very little doubt" that forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used a chemical weapon against civilians in Ghouta.

The official said the available evidence of Wednesday's attack has been "significantly corrupted as a result of the regime's persistent shelling and other intentional actions over the last five days."

The Syrian government pledged to work with visiting U.N. disarmament envoy Angela Kane to enable the U.N. team to visit the attack site. It has denied carrying out a chemical attack and accused Syrian rebels of being responsible for using such weapons.

The U.N. inspectors led by Swedish scientist Ake Sellstrom arrived in Damascus a week ago to investigate earlier allegations of chemical attacks in the Syrian conflict.

Western powers had called on the Syrian government to give the U.N. team immediate access to the scene of Wednesday's incident, fearing any delay would enable evidence of a chemical attack to degrade or be removed.

The U.S. official said Washington and its international partners believe there is little doubt of Syrian government responsibility based on "the reported number of victims, reported symptoms of those who were killed or injured, witness accounts, and other facts gathered by open sources."

Syrian rebels and activists said the alleged government chemical attack killed hundreds of civilians and released footage to back up their claim, showing scores of bodies and patients writhing in agony, all with no visible wounds.

Syrian state news agency SANA accused rebels of carrying out a new chemical attack on Saturday, causing soldiers to suffocate in the Joubar suburb of Damascus.

U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Sunday that U.S. forces are prepared to take action against Syria, if President Barack Obama approves. Mr. Obama met with top U.S. military and national security advisors on Saturday to consider his options.

The office of French President Francois Hollande said he and British Prime Minister David Cameron agreed on Sunday to hold talks soon on how to respond to what the French leader called the Syrian government's "intolerable act."

It also quoted Mr. Hollande as saying the suspected chemical attack will not go "unpunished."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suggested that he may take action against longtime enemy Syria, telling a Cabinet meeting that "our finger is responsible, and when needed it is also on the trigger."

He said the Ghouta attack demonstrates that what he called the "world's most dangerous regimes" must not be allowed to posses the "world's most dangerous weapons."

Syria and its allies warned against any U.S.-led military strikes.

In an interview broadcast Saturday, Syrian Information Minister Omran Zoabi told Lebanon-based al-Mayadeen television that U.S. military intervention will create a very serious fallout and a "fire that will inflame the Middle East."

Russia's foreign ministry accused some nations of trying to "impose their opinion" on the U.N. inspectors. It said those nations that suggest they could take military action against Syria should "use their common sense" and "refrain from committing a tragic mistake."

The head of the Russian parliament's International Affairs Committee posted a message on Twitter saying President Obama risks becoming a "clone" of his predecessor George W. Bush. Alexei Pushkov said Mr. Obama is moving toward what he called an "illegitimate" war in Syria in the same way that Mr. Bush did with Iraq.

Iran's Fars news agency also quoted the Iranian military's deputy chief of staff Massoud Jazayeri as saying "any crossing of Syria's red line will have severe consequences for the White House."

In Syria's latest violence, Syrian state television reported that the governor of Hama province was assassinated in a car bombing on Sunday.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs