World News

US Says Sarin Gas Used in Syria Attack

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says independent testing has confirmed the use of sarin gas in last month's attack on civilians in the Syrian capital of Damascus.

Kerry told U.S. media Sunday that samples provided to the United States from first responders on the scene have "tested positive for signatures of sarin".

His comments come a day after U.S. President Barack Obama announced that he will seek congressional approval before launching a military strike against the Syrian government in retaliation for what the U.S. concluded was the use of chemical weapons.

Mr. Kerry says he is confident that members of the U.S. Congress "will do what is right", but adds that the president has the power to act no matter what Congress decides.

Syria's state new agency quotes President Bashar al-Assad saying Sunday that Syria was capable of confronting any "external aggression". The country's deputy foreign minister, Faisal Maqdad, said Mr. Obama's decision to seek approval from Congress was full of "hesitation and confusion".

The Syrian government alleges that the the August 21 attacks were carried out by rebel fighters, but has not yet presented any evidence supporting the claim.

Syria's opposition says it is disappointed with Mr. Obama's decision to hold off on taking quick action against Damascus. The opposition coalition said in a statement Sunday that any possible military action should be carried out in conjunction with the Free Syrian army.

In an address at the White House Saturday, Mr. Obama said he has decided the United States should take military action against Syrian government targets. But he said that while he believes he has the authority to order a strike, he also thinks it is important for the country to have a debate on the issue.

Later, President Obama formally asked Congress to allow him to use military force in Syria to "deter, disrupt, prevent and degrade" the potential for more chemical attacks. The president ruled out any action that would put American ground troops in Syria.

He called what happened in Damascus nearly two weeks ago the worst chemical weapons attack of the 21st century, and he said the U.S. must not turn a 'blind eye" to it.

U.S. congressional leaders responded by saying they expect the Senate and House of Representatives to take up the matter when they return from their summer recess the week of September 9.

A U.N. inspection team wrapped up its work in Syria and left the country Saturday. A U.N. spokesman says in a call with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the head U.N. inspection team said the preparations for classifying the samples are progressing well and that they will begin to be transferred to laboratories on Monday.

The spokesman says Mr. Ban asked that the analysis of the samples be expedited and that a report of the results be sent to him as soon as possible. The secretary general also said that he believes the U.N. Security Council should stand "firm and united" in agreeing on measures in response to any use of chemical weapons.

The Syrian government has denied having any role in chemical weapons attacks. But Mr. Obama said U.S. intelligence is clear that "well over 1,000 people" were murdered - gassed to death by their own government.

In another development, French Interior Minister Manuel Valls is reported to have said Sunday that France will not take action alone against Syria, and will wait for a decision by U.S. Congress as Paris needs to be part of a coalition.

Protesters around the world took to the streets on Saturday to protest for and against a possible U.S.-led attack on Syria.

Amnesty International issued a statement calling on the U.N. Security Council to refer the Syrian situation to the International Criminal Court, to impose an arms embargo on the Syrian government, and to deploy international monitors to investigate and report on human rights abuses in Syria.

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