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Navy Chief to VOA: US Closely Watching Iran's Gulf Exercises

Voice of America - Fri, 08/03/2018 - 01:47
The United States is closely watching Iranian naval exercises in the Persian Gulf and will maintain freedom of navigation through a strategic waterway that Iran has threatened to block, the head of the Navy told VOA on Thursday. "They're doing this exercise. We're monitoring it closely," Admiral John Richardson, chief of naval operations,  said in an exclusive interview. "Certainly, we'll continue to maintain freedom of navigation through that very...
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UN to Convene Yemen Peace Talks in Geneva

Voice of America - Fri, 08/03/2018 - 00:12
The United Nations special envoy to Yemen is planning to invite the warring parties to Geneva next month to discuss a framework for peace talks. Martin Griffiths told the Security Council that "a political solution" to end the war in Yemen was "available," and urged world powers to support the new push for peace negotiations. Griffiths said the Sept. 6 talks "will provide the opportunity for the parties, among other things, to discuss the framework for...
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Aid Group: Thousands of Yemeni Children Fleeing Fighting

Voice of America - Thu, 08/02/2018 - 15:30
About 3,000 Yemeni children are fleeing every day from the port city of Hodeida as fighting between a Saudi-led coalition and Yemen’s Shiite rebels continues to rage along the country’s west coast, an international aid group said Thursday. Save the Children estimated that 6,238 people — half of them children — leave Hodeida on average “every single day.” But their trek to safer areas is perilous as families often find themselves “having to brave minefields, airstrikes and being forced...
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Israel Kills 7 Militants in Overnight Strike on Syrian Golan

Voice of America - Thu, 08/02/2018 - 14:30
Israel killed seven militants in an airstrike on the Syrian-held Golan Heights, preventing a "grave incident," Israel Radio said Thursday without citing sources. The Israeli military confirmed carrying out an airstrike overnight, saying it had targeted "several armed terror operatives in the southern Syrian Golan Heights" overnight. The military's statement did not elaborate on any casualties. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war...
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Fields Medal Stolen from Kurdish Mathematician in Rio

Voice of America - Thu, 08/02/2018 - 04:59
A winner of the Fields Medal, often called the “Nobel Prize of mathematics,” had his prize stolen shortly after receiving it during a ceremony in Rio de Janeiro on Wednesday. Caucher Birkar, a Kurdish refugee from Iran teaching at Cambridge University, put the gold medal, worth around $4,000, in a briefcase and soon afterward realized that it had been stolen, according to event organizers. Four mathematicians shared this year's honor. Security officials at the Riocentro venue,...
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Reports: Iran Preparing for Major Military Exercise

Voice of America - Thu, 08/02/2018 - 04:40
Iran is preparing to soon begin a massive military exercise in the Persian Gulf that could demonstrate Tehran’s ability to shut down the Strait of Hormuz. Iran recently threatened to block the strait, which is a key passageway for Middle East oil tankers going from the Persian Gulf to the Arabian Sea.  “We are aware of the increase in Iranian naval operations within the Arabian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz and Gulf of Oman,” said Navy Captain Bill Urban, the chief spokesman at Central...
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Anti-Government Protests Persist in Iranian City

Voice of America - Thu, 08/02/2018 - 01:26
Several hundred Iranians have staged a second day of anti-government street protests in Iran’s third-largest city, Isfahan, in a sign of persistent public anger about the country’s economic woes.  Video clips verified by VOA Persian and sent by residents showed the protesters marching and chanting opposition slogans on Wednesday in Isfahan’s northern district of New Shapur, the same area where hundreds of anti-government demonstrators had marched the day before.  Residents...
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UN Calls on Saudi Arabia to Release Human Rights Activists

Voice of America - Wed, 08/01/2018 - 17:05
The U.N. is calling for the immediate release of human rights activists arrested in Saudi Arabia. The crackdown against human rights defenders and activists, including women's rights activists in Saudi Arabia, began in mid-May and shows no signs of letting up. The U.N. human rights office says at least 15 government critics have been arbitrarily detained.  Agency spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani says eight have been temporarily released pending a review of their...
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Russia: Iran-backed Forces Withdraw From Golan Frontier

Voice of America - Wed, 08/01/2018 - 17:03
Russian President Vladimir Putin's envoy to Syria said Wednesday that an agreement with Israel that includes Russian guarantees ensures that Iran-backed fighters will remain more than 80 kilometers (50 miles) away from Syria's frontier with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.   Alexander Lavrentyev told the Russian Interfax news agency the agreement was reached in order not to "irritate" Israel. He didn't elaborate on when the agreement was forged or for how...
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Japan Vows to Rescue Journalist Believed Held in Syria

Voice of America - Wed, 08/01/2018 - 14:58
Japan's government said Wednesday it's doing its utmost for the rescue of a Japanese journalist believed to be held in Syria after a video of a man appearing to be him was posted on the internet. Freelance journalist Jumpei Yasuda was last heard from in Syria in June 2015.   Chief Cabinet Spokesman Yoshihide Suga told a regular news conference that he believed the man in the video was Yasuda. Suga refused to give further details about the rescue efforts.   "The...
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Iran's Parliament Summons Rouhani as Economy Falters Under US Pressures

Voice of America - Wed, 08/01/2018 - 12:08
Iranian lawmakers have given President Hassan Rouhani one month to appear before parliament to answer questions on his government's handling of Iran's economic struggles, state media reported on Wednesday. It is the first time parliament has summoned Rouhani, who is under pressure from hardline rivals to change his cabinet following a deterioration in relations with the United States and Iran's growing economic difficulties. Lawmakers want to question Rouhani on topics...
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Iran Guard Chief: No Talks With 'Great Satan'

Voice of America - Wed, 08/01/2018 - 04:15
The head of Iran's most powerful military body on Tuesday rejected U.S. President Donald Trump's offer of direct talks with Iranian leaders, saying Tehran never would allow talks with what he called the "Great Satan." The commander of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Mohammad Ali Jafari, made the comment in an open letter published by Iran's state-controlled Fars News Agency. In the letter, Jafari said Iran never would allow talks with the...
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Justice Dept. Investigating Claims That Drug Companies Funded Terrorism in Iraq

NY Times Iraq - Wed, 08/01/2018 - 03:12
In a filing, AstraZeneca said the case was related to a suit that accused five companies of giving the Iraqi health ministry drugs and devices that were then sold to fund attacks.
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Hundreds Protest Currency Slump in Central Iran's Isfahan

Voice of America - Wed, 08/01/2018 - 01:55
Hundreds of Iranians joined a street protest Tuesday in the central city of Isfahan to denounce the government's handling of economic problems, including the record low value of Iran's currency. Images verified by VOA Persian and sent by Isfahan residents showed protesters marching and chanting anti-government slogans in the city's New Shapur district. Residents said they were protesting the rial's slump to a record low against the U.S. dollar in unofficial trading this...
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Yemen's Houthis Halt Red Sea Attacks for Two Weeks

Voice of America - Wed, 08/01/2018 - 01:07
Yemen's Houthi group said Tuesday that it would unilaterally halt attacks in the Red Sea for two weeks to support peace efforts, days after Saudi Arabia suspended oil exports through a strategic Red Sea channel following attacks on crude tankers last week. Yemen — where a Saudi-led coalition has been battling the Iranian-aligned Houthi movement in a three-year-old war — lies on one of the world's most important trade routes for oil tankers, the Bab al-Mandeb...
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Flurry of Syrian Death Notices Shows Fate of Government Detainees

Voice of America - Wed, 08/01/2018 - 00:53
For six years Amina al-Khoulani hoped her brothers Majd and Abdelsattar were alive, albeit cut off in a Syrian government prison after their arrest early in Syria’s war. But last week, newly published state records obtained by relatives told her the men died back in 2013, just weeks after the family last saw them through a metal fence during a visit to the Sednaya military jail near Damascus. “We used to hear a lot of reports that they had been executed. We know that the regime is...
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Amal Clooney Scholarship Winner Aims to Fight Child Marriage and Rape

Voice of America - Tue, 07/31/2018 - 22:58
The 16-year-old winner of the annual Amal Clooney Scholarship said on Tuesday that she wants to combat child marriage and marital rape in Lebanon, where there is no minimum age to wed. Kamar Omary will head to Armenia's UWC Dilijan College in August to enroll in its two-year international baccalaureate program — the fourth Lebanese teenager to receive the award set up by the prominent Lebanese-British human rights lawyer. "We need a minimum age for marriage and marital rape...
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World Bank Warns Some Lebanon Projects Might Be Cancelled

Voice of America - Tue, 07/31/2018 - 22:46
A senior World Bank official said Tuesday that the Lebanese economy is “not doing great” and urged the country’s leaders to approve some $1.1 billion worth of projects put forward by the international lender, saying otherwise they could be cancelled.  Ferid Belhaj, the bank’s vice president for the Middle East and North Africa, told reporters in Beirut that the economy is “in a state of fragility.” Lebanon’s economy has suffered from the seven-year civil war in neighboring Syria,...
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Syrian Envoy Rails Against Turkish Presence in North 

Voice of America - Tue, 07/31/2018 - 22:06
Syria’s envoy to the United Nations on Tuesday railed against Turkey’s growing influence in the north, calling it an “occupation” and vowing to “expel” its troops.  Turkey, a main backer of Syria’s opposition, has sent troops into northern Syria to battle the Islamic State group and Kurdish militants. It has also deployed troops in the opposition stronghold of Idlib as part of a de-escalation agreement with Iran and Russia, both of which are close allies of the...
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No Plans for US-Iran Talks at Asian Meeting

Voice of America - Tue, 07/31/2018 - 19:54
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has no intention of meeting his Iranian counterpart at an international gathering this weekend in Singapore, even as President Donald Trump says he is willing to talk with Tehran about its nuclear weapons development program. The top U.S. diplomat and Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif are both attending Saturday's meeting of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations. But a senior U.S. State Department official said Tuesday...
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