January 9, 2013

A United Nations agency says about one million Syrians are living without enough food. Elisabeth Byrs is a spokesperson for the UN's World Food Program. She says the agency is giving food to about one and a half million people every month. But she says at least another million people need help, especially those who have been forced to flee their homes. The World Food Program's main partner in the area is the Syria Red Crescent but its work has been restricted by a lack of fuel and increasing violence. Only a few other aid groups are permitted to give food and other supplies. The UN has called for $1.5-billion to help the worsening humanitarian situation in Syria. Ms Byrs says that call has for the most part not been answered.

The president of the Central African Republic says he will not accept a rebel group's demand for him to resign. President François Bozizé told reporters in Bangui Tuesday that he plans to defend the democracy of his country's constitution. The rebel group, Seleka, has taken one third of the country's territory in the past month. The group has been calling for Mr Bozizé to step down. The president has said he will finish his term which ends in 2016. But he has said he is willing to form a coalition government. Government officials and rebel leaders are gathering in Gabon for peace talks expected to begin this week.

A senior UN official is warning of a serious humanitarian crisis in two of Sudan's southern states. John Ging says nearly one million people in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states are in critical need of food. But he says aid workers are not permitted to reach them. Sudanese government troops and a rebel group connected to South Sudan have been clashing in the area since June, 2011. The clashes have forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee. Many are eating wild plants to survive. Humanitarian groups have asked Sudan's government and the rebel group to permit aid. But a United Nations diplomat for Sudan and South Sudan reportedly says aid is unlikely. Haile Menkerios reportedly says Sudan and South Sudan will have to solve the political issues behind the rebellion first.

Kenyan officials have launched a search for illegal hunters suspected of killing of family of 12 elephants. This could be the country's worst incident of illegal hunting, or poaching. Workers searched Tuesday across Kenya's Tsavo East National Park. They were looking for at least ten poachers believed to have shot the elephants on Saturday. Poachers often cut off and sell the elephant's long teeth. The Kenyan Wildlife Service says an increase in demand for the ivory teeth in Asia has led to an increase in elephant killing in Africa.

Uganda has returned to the Irish government more than $5-million in aid money stolen from Ireland. Irish Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore said Tuesday he is certain the move will help Uganda fight corruption. Mr Gilmore says Irish officials will now consider restarting its aid program for Uganda. Officials in Uganda's prime minister's office stole the money last year. The prime minister denies that he was involved.

Venezuelan officials say President Hugo Chávez will miss Thursday's inauguration for his third term. Mr Chávez is in Cuba for medical treatment. National Assembly Speaker Diosdado Cabello read a letter to lawmakers Tuesday. It said the doctors advised Mr Chávez not to go home. Mr Cabello said the president will be sworn in by the Supreme Court later. The opposition in Venezuela argues that the president must resign if he cannot be sworn in on January 10. But some legal experts say the constitution does not give a date to swear in the president. Mr Chávez's exact condition is unclear. Venezuela's information minister said Monday that Mr Chávez has a lung infection connected to cancer treatment.

American President Barack Obama is saying good-bye to at least five important members of his administration. He is also adding new people as he starts his second term. Mr Obama earlier nominated Senator John Kerry to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state. On Monday, he named former Senator Chuck Hagel to become defense secretary. VOA reporter Jim Malone says Mr Obama's nominations may show that the president wants to change American military policy. He says the candidates are not interested in major military operations overseas.

A military judge has reduced the possible jail time for an American soldier accused of putting secret information on a website. Judge Denise Lind ruled Tuesday that Bradley Manning would have to spend 112 fewer days in jail if he is convicted. Mr Manning has been restrained since the middle of 2010 for his reported part in the WikiLeaks case. Judge Lind said Mr Manning was treated too severely in the military jail after his arrest. As a result, she said she would reduce his possible jail time but not drop the charges. Mr Manning's trial is set to begin March 6.

United States government weather experts say last year was the warmest ever in the country. On Tuesday, they reported that the average temperature in the 48 connected states was 13 degrees Celsius. That is almost one degree higher than the old record set in 1988. The experts did not include the Ireland state of Hawaii or far northern Alaska in their report.