VOA NEWS

July 20, 2017

From Washington, this is VOA news. I'm Jonathan Smith reporting.



The White House at this hour is refusing to release any details of a G-20 summit dinner conversation that took place earlier this month between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters on Wednesday this was a social dinner and that was the nature of the evening. Reporters had pressed her about the topics the two leaders discussed.

Looking back at news coverage of the Trump-Putin meeting a day earlier when the encounter first became known in the United States, Sanders said it was "a little bit ridiculous" to describe the two presidents' chats as a private conversation when more than [two other] two dozen other national leaders and interpreters were sitting nearby and in plain view during a formal dinner in a large dining room.

However, many foreign diplomats, political commentators and Democratic lawmakers repeated the same phrase Wednesday when asked about the second extended Trump-Putin conversation: "It's not normal."



Republican lawmakers expressed renewed confidence they could overhaul America's health care system after meeting with President Trump Wednesday evening. He told them to cancel their August recess unless former President Barack Obama's health care law, known as Obamacare, is dismantled.

Leading senior Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas upon returning to the Capitol said, "The differences are narrowing. There's more optimism that we could vote on a repeal-and-replace bill, rather than just a repeal bill."



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Talks aimed at breaking down trade barriers between the United States and China appeared to hit a snag Wednesday in Washington as the two sides canceled news conferences that were scheduled for the end of the meeting.

As the talks began in Washington, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin called for "a more fair and balanced economic relationship" between the United States and China.



Islamic State militants have lost ground across the north and east of Syria during the past 24 hours as U.S.-backed Kurdish fighters advanced inside the so-called IS capital, Raqqa.

At the same time, Syrian government forces advanced to within 10 kilometers of the desert oasis town of Deir ez-Zor, where some government troops have been besieged by ISIS fighters. Edward Yeranian reports for VOA from Cairo.

As fighting flares in parts of Syria, a U.S.-Russian-backed cease-fire in the south appears to be holding. U.S. officials say Russia has offered to send observers to the area to monitor the truce. Russian politicians also have approved a plan for keeping troops in Syria for at least 49 years.

Brett McGurk, the U.S. special envoy for the anti-Islamic State coalition, said last week the U.S. has had "constructive" talks with Russian military officials on Syria in recent weeks and both sides are keen to explore the possibility of cease-fires in other areas of the country.

Despite talk of enlarging the cease-fire, fighting flared up in the rebel-held province of Idlib near the Turkish border.

Edward Yeranian, for VOA news, Cairo.



Iraqi's prime minister is now admitting that Iraqi forces did commit human rights violations during the battle to retake the city of Mosul from the Islamic State group. But he said these were "individual acts" for which the perpetrators will be punished.

Haider al-Abadi spoke to reporters late Tuesday after shocking videos emerged on social media following the victory in Mosul. The videos among other things show troops throwing captured ISIS suspects off a high wall, then shooting their bodies below.



The U.S. Supreme Court has temporarily halted U.S. refugee admissions until an appeals court rules on the matter.

The nation's highest court on Wednesday upheld a request from the Trump administration to bar refugees as part of an executive order that also limited travelers from six majority-Muslim countries.



You can find more on these and other stories from around the world around the clock at voanews.com. I'm Jonathan Smith reporting from Washington.

That's the latest world news from VOA.