From Washington, this is VOA news. Coming up, the White House says President Assad used chemical weapons in Syria, and Iranians choosing a new president.
The U.S. government says it now has conclusive evidence that Syrian troops have used chemical weapons against rebels–a move President Obama has said would cross a “red line.”
The White House says Mr. Obama is considering both political and military options but it’s not yet clear how quickly new actions will be taken or what they will involve.
The president is coming under increased pressure from some in Congress and other prominent voices, including former President Bill Clinton to take more forceful action in Syria, including arming the rebels.
The United Nations is now saying the nearly 93,000 people have been killed in Syria over the past two years. The majority have been civilians.
Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued a “final warning” to protesters to leave Gezi Park in Istanbul. Activists say they will not leave the park until the government abandons plans to redevelop it. More now from Dorian Jones.
In an address to party members Thursday, Mr. Erdogan said his patience is at an end with demonstrators occupying Gezi Park in central Istanbul.
He says that the Turkish government cannot wait any more because Gezi Park does not belong to occupying forces, but to the people.
Government plans to tear up Gezi Park and build a shopping center set off the protests. They quickly built up into marches against the government and Erdogan. The opposition accuses him of being authoritarian and imposing his conservative Islamic views on secular Turks.
Riot police have used tear gas, water cannons, and stun grenades to drive off the demonstrators in Istanbul and Ankara.
Dorian Jones for VOA news, Istanbul, Turkey.
Iranians are going to the polls today to elect a new president amid tight security and in an electoral process highly controlled by the regime. Human rights activists say the regime and its security forces are likely to crack down on any descent.
Despite the crackdown, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is calling for a high voter turnout.
The Atlantic Council’s Barbara “Iran is not a totalitarian state, it’s an authoritarian state, which means these elections do provide an outlet for criticism of policies and of the situation of the status quo.”
All six presidential candidates were approved by a panel of Iran’s ruling clerics and most are considered hardliners who support the government structure and are loyal to the country’s supreme leader.
Iranians will choose the successor to two-term President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is constitutionally barred from a third consecutive term.
Many analysts view Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator, Saeed Jalili, as the likely favorite.
South African government says former President Nelson Mandela continues to recover from a lung infection but it says he remains in stable and serious condition.
In a statement on Thursday, President Jacob Zuma appealed to the people of South Africa and beyond in prayers they pray for his speedy recovery.
The 94-year-old icon has been hospitalized in Pretoria since last week–his fourth hospitalization since December.
As the Indian currency slides to an all-time low against the dollar, the Indian finance minister is trying to bolster confidence in the country’s flagging economy. A story now from Anjana Pasricha.
The rupee’s slide this week came on the heels of steady losses over the last month. Overall the Indian currency has slipped by 8 percent since the start of May.
India’s Finance Minister P. Chidambaram Thursday tried to calm fears that the falling currency will put further strain on the flagging economy. He says India’s huge trade imbalance has triggered the slide. The current account deficit as it is called, is driven by the country’s massive oil and gold imports.
Anjana Pasricha for VOA news, New Delhi.
A new U.N. report says the world’s population is likely to increase by almost one billion in the next 12 years, with most of the growth happening in developing regions such as Africa.
The report projects a rise in the global population from the current level of 7.2 billion to 8.1 billion in 2025.
The figure is expected to reach 9.6 billion in the year 2050, primarily on growth and high fertility African nations and countries with large populations, such as India, Indonesia, Pakistan, the Philippines and the U.S.
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