September 20, 2013

From Washington, this is VOA news. The U.S. secretary of state says the Assad regime did use chemical weapons. "This isn't complicated. When we said we know what is true, we meant it." And a former presidential candidate delivers a blistering attack against Vladimir Putin. I'm Joe Parker reporting from Washington.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says the U.N. report about last month's chemical weapons attack in Syria confirms that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces carried out the attack. Kerry told reporters at the State Department on Thursday that chemical weapons were in fact used by the Assad regime.

Carla Babb has more for VOA.

"You are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts."

That's all Secretary of State John Kerry opened his plea for global action against the inhumane use of chemical weapons in Syria. Kerry told reporters at the State Department Thursday the facts of the August 21st poison gas attack in Syria are not complicated.

"Sarin was used, sarin killed."

He says U.N. officials interviewed more than 50 survivors, analyzing their symptoms, blood, hair and surroundings to support the findings.

Carla Babb, VOA news, Washington.

In an earlier interview with the U.S. network Fox News, President Assad denied his forces launched the poison gas attack that killed hundreds near Damascus.

U.S. Senator John McCain, a former presidential candidate for the Republican Party, has delivered a blistering attack against Vladimir Putin, accusing the Russian leader of allying himself with global tyrants and ruling through violence and repression.

In an opinion piece on Thursday in the Russian newspaper Pravda, McCain wrote that Russia supports a Syrian regime that is killing tens of thousands of its people to stay in power, and that it is blocking the U.N. from condemning Syrian atrocities.

Senator McCain said Mr. Putin has refused to consider the "massacre of innocents," and that he is destroying Russia's global reputation.

President Barack Obama says the United States sells more goods overseas than ever before and will continue to pass that record again this year.

With more, here is Kent Klein for VOA.

Mr. Obama says rising exports are one of many encouraging signs for the U.S. economy.

"One of the biggest bright spots in our economy has been exports. The fact that 'Made In America' means something and has provided a boost to our domestic economy and has reminded the world just how competitive we are."

The President spoke Thursday at a meeting of his export council at the White House.

In 2010, Mr. Obama set an ambitious goal of doubling U.S. exports by 2015. But a weak global economy and slow growth in American manufacturing have made that goal elusive.

Kent Klein, VOA news, the White House.

For more on this story, visit our website at voanews.com.

Egyptian officials say a police general was shot and killed by Islamist fighters during a security operation to reassert state control over an area on the outskirts of Cairo.

The Interior Ministry says security forces, backed by helicopters, stormed the village of Kerdasah early Thursday, firing tear gas and exchanging gunfire with what they said were terrorists.

Police say they arrested at least 41 people during house-to-house raids and are looking for about 100 more.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has vowed his country will never pursue a nuclear bomb, in the latest sign the newly elected leader is open to improving relations with the U.S.

In an interview from Tehran with NBC News, President Rouhani said that Iran has never sought nuclear weapons and that it would under no circumstances "seek any weapons of mass destruction."

Pope Francis says the Catholic Church should lessen its focus on issues such as gay marriage, abortion and contraception and, instead, focus on being a more welcoming and understanding Church for all.

In an interview published today in the Catholic magazine, the pope warned that unless the Church finds a new balance on its divisive rules and demonstrates mercy, its moral structure could "fall like a house of cards."

Nigerian officials spent Thursday collecting corpses in northeastern Nigeria where Islamist Boko Haram militants killed at least 87 people during an attack earlier this week.

The insurgents, disguised in military uniforms, burned scores of homes and buildings during the onslaught late Tuesday.

And firefighters battling the large wildfire in California that has consumed vast forests in a famous national park say it should be contained sometime this week.

Joe Parker for VOA news.