February 15, 2013

The US and UN continue to react to North Korea's latest nuclear test and the "blade runner" accused of murder. I'm Steve Karesh reporting from Washington.

US Secretary of State John Kerry says if Iran's nuclear program is peaceful, it should have no trouble proving it. Kerry told reporters Thursday that talks with Iran can make progress only if Iran is determined to make "real offers and engage in real dialog."

The United States and many of its allies suspect Iran is trying to build a nuclear bomb. Iran insists the nuclear program is strictly for peaceful civilian purposes.

Chief UN nuclear inspector Herman Nackaerts ended a visit to Iran Thursday with no agreement for inspections and no further talks were scheduled.

Senior Obama administration officials have defended their response to requests from France to assist their military operations in the West African country of Mali.

Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson testified in front of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee that the US is pledging to help Mali with long-term stability after the current crisis is resolved.

The top State Department and Defense Department officials testifying at the hearing defended the US response. Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson, the top US diplomat to Africa, detailed US support.

"The United States strongly supports France's efforts and has actively engaged to assist France in Mali. As of February 13, we have conducted 22 refueling missions."

Carson said the US Air Force has also flown 43 C-17 sorties to support French and Chadian personnel, supplies, and equipment and provided intelligence. Cindy Saine, VOA news on Capitol Hill.

For more on the situation in Mali or the American political situation surrounding it, visit us online at voanews.com.

South African police have charged Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius with murder, following the shooting death of a woman at his house.

National police spokeswoman Denise Beukes says there was no sign of forced entry at Pistorius's home in Pretoria and there are no other suspects.

Pistorius made history last August when he became the first double-amputee to run at the Olympics. He is known as the "blade runner" for competing on a high-tech artificial legs.

US Secretary of State John Kerry and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon say that North Korea's nuclear test this week must not go unpunished. VOA state Department correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

As crowds in Pyongyang celebrate what North Korean leaders call a successful nuclear test in legitimate self-defense, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says the test is a direct challenge to the international community.

Ahead of talks with Mr Ban, US Secretary of State John Kerry said North Korea is a clear threat to world peace.

North Korea's third nuclear test in defiance of a UN resolution drew widespread criticism, including from China, which is Pyongyang's only major ally.

Secretary Kerry and Secretary-General Ban say they are working with UN Security Council members and other allies to guarantee an appropriate response to the nuclear test.

North Korea is threatening stronger steps if necessary to counter what it says is US hostility toward the Communist state. Scott Stearns, VOA news, the state Department.

In the US, Senate Republicans have blocked a vote to confirm Chuck Hagel as the new secretary of defense. The Senate fell two votes short of Democrats' demand to bring the nomination to a final vote.

The Senate now goes on a ten-day recess and Hagel will have to wait at least until then to find out if he will be the next Pentagon chief.

President Barack Obama calls the Republican debate to block the nomination "unprecedented." He said it's unfortunate that senators are using this kind of politics while the nation is still at war in Afghanistan.

The ongoing violence in Syria and targeted killings around the world has made 2012 one of the deadliest years for journalists. In its annual review, the Committee to Protect Journalists said 70 were killed and another 232 jailed for their work last year.

CPJ Director Robert Mahoney said the majority of those targeted were local journalists and most of the time, no one was prosecuted for their deaths.

"It sends a terrible message to the journalism community if one of its own can be killed and nothing happens."

For more on the report from the CPJ, log on to voanews.com. Reporting from Washington, I'm Steve Karesh.