From Washington, this is VOA news. The U.N. and France allege chemical weapons use in Syria. Taliban insurgents raise the deadly toll of Afghan troops. I’m Ray Kouguell reporting from Washington.
A new United Nations report says there are “reasonable grounds” to believe a limited amount of chemical weapons have been used in Syria.
But it says there is not enough evidence to determine which chemical agents or who deployed them, and that testing victims and collecting samples is needed.
France is telling a different story. Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius says tests performed by a French laboratory showed with certainty that the deadly nerve agent sarin was used in Syria on several occasions.
Paulo Pinheiro, chairman of the U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Syria, stressed the human toll of the two-year conflict.
“Crimes that shock the conscience have become a daily reality. Humanity has been the casualty of this war. Syria needs not a military surge, Syria needs a diplomatic surge. We cannot continue to [stand] sit idly by and watch this catastrophe unfold.”
Both the government and rebels trying to oust President Bashar al-Assad have accused each other of using chemical weapons and committing human rights violations.
Thousands of Turkish anti-government protesters marched again Tuesday, even after the deputy prime minister said the government has “learned its lesson.”
Demonstrators filled central Ankara and the main square in Istanbul as night fell, defying government appeals to end their protests.
Two people have died and hundreds police and civilians have been injured since it all began last Friday.
Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc said it was wrong to use “excessive force” against the marchers, but refused to apologize to those who he says have destroyed property and interfered with people’s freedom.
A court in Egyptian convicted 43 workers from foreign non-profit agencies, including at least 15 Americans, on charges of illegally using funds to stir unrest.
The court imposed sentences of up to five years in prison on many of the workers. Most of them, though, were sentenced in absentia after being allowed to leave the country last year.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen says the alliance is sending an expert mission to Libya amid concerns that Islamist militants are expanding their foothold in the country.
Mr. Rasmussen says the team will be leaving for Libya as soon as possible and return by the end of the month, when a possible, future training mission will be discussed. He said no NATO troops would be deployed.
The U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General Joseph Dunford, says Taliban insurgents are inflicting heavy losses on Afghan national security forces as the Afghans assume the lead.
He spoke in Brussels, where NATO defense ministers are talking about next year’s draw-down of international forces.
VOA’s Luis Ramirez has more.
U.S. Marine Corps General Joseph Dunford says the Taliban has done what it said it would step up high-profile assaults and insider attacks to create fear and intimidation.
He called the losses among Afghan forces significant.
“The numbers have been, you know, as I look back over the last six or eight weeks, it’s probably, you know, 70 in one week. It was 44, 34 and then the last two weeks have been over 100.”
But Dunford said the Afghan forces are exceeding expectations in their ability to take on the insurgents and he expressed confidence that they are well on their way to being able to defend their country on their own.
Luis Ramirez, VOA news, Brussels.
The Red Cross says it plans to pull some of its international staff out of Afghanistan as a result of a recent attack on its office in the eastern city of Jalalabad.
South African track star Oscar Pistorius appeared Tuesday in a Pretoria court ahead of his murder trial for the shooting death of his model girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, at his upscale Pretoria home earlier this year. Both legal teams agreed to postpone the high profile case until August to allow for more investigation.
National Prosecuting Authority spokesman, Medupe Simasiku, says he is confident investigators will meet the August deadline, but offered few details of what the trial might bring.
“I cannot go into detail as to what is exactly happening inside the case itself, but I can tell you that we hope by the time when the investigations are completed, we will be able now to serve the indictment to the defense.”
Pistorius says he mistook his girlfriend of three months for an intruder and did not mean to shoot her four times through a locked bathroom door.
The prosecution argues the shooting was a case of premeditated murder.
I’m Ray Kouguell, VOA news. More on the Internet at voanews.com.
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