VOA NEWS IN SPECIAL ENGLISH

October 8, 2012

Venezuelans are voting for president. Experts say the election will probably be the most difficult President Hugo Chávez has ever faced. Mr Chávez is competing against lawyer Henrique Capriles. Current opinion studies show the two men tied or Mr Chávez holding a small lead. Hugo Chávez has led Venezuela for 14 years. His support remains strong among the country's poor. Mr Capriles has strengthened the opposition. He criticizes Mr Chávez for not preventing power shortages and for a lack of food and a high murder rate.

A bomb explosion has killed at least one person near police headquarters in the Syrian capital, Damascus. The bomb had been hidden in a car. Syrian state media described the incident as a terrorist attack. The Syrian opposition has denied any links to terrorists. Earlier Sunday, Turkey launched a fifth day of artillery attacks into Syria. The Turkish artillery attacks Sunday came after another Syrian shell landed in a Turkish border village. Last week, Syrian shells killed five civilians in the same Turkish village. A rebel flag flew over Syrian government army position near the Turkish border province of Hatay on Sunday. Syrian activists say anti-government fighters had seized the building.

Pakistani politician Imran Khan is continuing a protest of American drone attacks in tribal areas of the country. Drones are military planes that use no crew or pilot. On Saturday, Mr Khan and supporters of his Movement for Justice Party left Islamabad in about 200 automobiles. They are traveling to South Waziristan. About 300 more cars have now joined the protest trip. Drone strikes are a hotly disputed issue in Pakistan. The United States says they are an important tool in the effort to defeat Taliban rebels.

The president of Sudan has ordered the reopening of land and river border crossings with South Sudan. Omar al-Bashir announced the orders Sunday as he met with his government's new ambassador to South Sudan. Mr Bashir and South Sudan's President Salva Kiir signed security and cooperation agreements last week. The two leaders said the agreements meant the end to all conflict between their countries. Tensions over oil wealth had continued after South Sudan gained independence from Sudan last year. In other news, a Sudanese military plane crashed near the capital, Khartoum, Sunday. Fifteen people were killed in the crash. Seven others were hurt. The plane had been carrying equipment and people to the Darfur area.

The president of Somalia has appointed a Kenyan businessman to be Somalia's prime minister. Abdi Farah Shirdoon was introduced to the public Saturday in Mogadishu, the capital. He told reporters he is ready to go to work and he asked for the support of the Somali people. He must be approved by Somalia's parliament before starting his job as prime minister. Somalia has been without a strong central government for 20 years because of civil wars.

Libyan lawmakers have rejected the proposed cabinet of Acting Prime Minister Mustafa Abushagur. The vote also dismisses Mr Abushagur from office. The vote was 125 to 44. The lawmakers elected Mr Abushagur as prime minister last month. They gave him several weeks to form a government. His first proposed list of ministers received major protest from the western town, Zawiyah. The community said it was poorly represented in the proposal. Mr Abushagur says lawmakers should have worked with him to make acceptable changes. The Libyan congress must by law elect a new prime minister in the coming weeks.

The Philippine government and Muslim rebels say they have reached a general agreement designed to end 40 years of rebellion. President Benigno Aquino says the deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front will be signed October 15 in Manila. The agreement establishes a new self-rule territory in the southern area, Mindanao. The rebels consider the area their traditional homeland. The territory will be called Bangsamoro. A 15-member committee is to supervise the change. The Transition Commission has until 2015 to write laws for the new area. The two sides held talks in the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur.

In Indonesia, the active volcano called Mount Lokon exploded, sending smoke and ash into the sky early Sunday. An Associated Press report quoted a local official who said the ash made the rain thick and muddy in nearby villages. Locals reported that the sound from the exploding mountain was heard five kilometers away. Indonesian soldiers are giving protective face covers to the local people. There are no plans to ask people to leave the area. The mountain is one of about 129 active volcanoes in Indonesia. It last exploded in 1991. That explosion killed a traveler from Switzerland and forced thousands of people to flee their homes.

A company called SpaceX is to launch the first of 12 flights to take supplies to the International Space Station. The American company made history in May when its space vehicle became the first private vehicle to reach the International Space Station. The United States space agency will pay SpaceX $1.6-billion to make 12 supply flights to the International Space Station. The United States retired its space shuttle vehicles last year. Russia, Europe and Japan can deliver supplies to the space station. But their vehicles burn up in the atmosphere during reentry.