From Washington, this is VOA news. Coming up, the latest on the Syrian conflict, a presidential future for a Burmese opposition leader. Hello everyone, I’m Steve Norman.
Syrian government troops have recaptured a U.N.-manned crossing along the cease-fire line with Israel in the Golan Heights just hours after reports indicated Syrian rebels had briefly seized the area.
The rarely-used crossing is the only one that exists between Syrian and Israeli-controlled areas in what is a U.N.-monitored disengagement zone. Witnesses reported heavy [losses] clashes on the Syrian side and said facilities were badly damaged.
The Obama administration is coming under fire after a report in the British newspaper, The Guardian, that the government here in the United States is secretly collecting the phone records of millions of Americans who use Verizon as their phone carrier.
The Guardian says the move is authorized by the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court as part of the government’s ongoing counter-terrorism activities. The story from VOA’s Jim Malone.
The Guardian report said the government order on the Verizon phone records was sweeping and involved tens of millions of Verizon customers who use either land-lines or cell phones.
The information gathered reported included phone numbers of both parties on a call as well as time, date, duration and location of calls.
The order from the government’s special surveillance court did not cover actually listening in on the calls or their content, according to the report.
The reported phone record weep was a prime topic of discussion at a Senate hearing of the Justice Department.
Jim Malone, VOA news, Washington.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan says his government will continue with its controversial plans to overhaul a small park in central Istanbul, despite widespread anti-government protests sparked by public opposition to the plan.
During a news conference in Tunisia Thursday, Mr. Erdogan said “terror groups” were involved in the protests, which started as an environmental demonstration, and seven foreigners also were included among the protesters being arrested.
Mr. Erdogan returned to Turkey late Thursday after spending several days in North Africa as protesters at home called for his resignation.
Critics accuse him of governing in an authoritarian manner and imposing his Islamic views on a secular nation.
The prime minister has dismissed the protests as bitterness by the opposition over lost elections.
Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is laying out some of his top priorities. The story now from VOA’s Sharon Behn.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, in his first public foreign policy directive since taking office, has told Pakistan’s diplomatic missions around the world to turn their focus to aiding the economic growth of the nation.
According to Pakistan’s Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Aizaz Ahmad Choudhry, Prime Minister Sharif’s priorities for now are internal and economic.
“The prime minister directed our missions abroad to aggressively pursue economic diplomacy, promotion of Pakistan’s interests in the realms of trade, foreign investment, and economic cooperation.”
Pakistan is suffering from a deep economic crisis, with severe energy shortages, inflation and unemployment.
Sharon Behn, VOA news, Islamabad.
Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she wants to become her country’s next president in 2015, when national elections are planned as part of an ongoing transition from decades of military rule.
The Nobel Peace Laureate spoke to delegates attending Thursday’s World Economic Forum meeting in Burma’s administrative capital. It was her most explicit comment about her political ambitions to date.
“I want to run for president, and I am quite frank about it. If I pretended that I did not want to be president, I would not be honest. And I would rather be honest with my people than otherwise. But, the president is not directly elected. For me to be eligible for the post of the presidency, the constitution will have to be amended.’ Burma’s longtime military rulers surrendered power in 2011, ushering in a civilian government which allowed Aung San Suu Kyi and members of the National League for Democracy party to win parliamentary seats in 2012 by-elections. She had previously endured 15 years of house arrest under military rule.
South Korea has accepted an offer by the North to conduct a dialog of possible diplomatic breakthrough that follows weeks of worsening relations on the peninsula.
Pyongyang’s Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea unexpectedly offered Thursday to hold talks on a pair of joint commercial projects. Seoul has agreed.
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