December 17, 2018

VOA news. I'm Christopher Cruise reporting.

A Pakistan-arranged meeting between American and Taliban officials will be held Monday in the United Arab Emirates to goal a political settlement to the war in Afghanistan. Zalmay Khalilzad will lead the U.S. team at the talks in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the gulf state. He is the U.S. special representative for Afghan reconciliation.

That news being confirmed to VOA on Sunday by a senior Pakistani official privy to the development.

The official said Pakistan facilitated the dialogue after President Trump wrote to Prime Minister Imran Khan earlier this month seeking his cooperation in bringing the Taliban to the table for peace negotiations.

Turkey's foreign minister says President Trump has told the Turkish president that the U.S. is working on extraditing Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen. He is accused of orchestrating a failed coup in 2016.

Reuters correspondent David Doyle reports.

Gülen, who denies any involvement in the failed coup, has been self-imposed exile in the U.S. for the last two decades.

While Turkey has long sought his extradition, Trump said last month he wasn't considering sending the preacher back. That's because the U.S. is trying to get Turkey to ease pressure on Saudi Arabia over the killing of a Saudi journalist in Istanbul.

The murder of Jamal Khashoggi was also brought up by Turkey's Çavuşoğlu on Sunday as he criticized the response from European countries.

"... and many European countries who are promoting the freedom of media, freedom of the expression are closing their eyes."

The U.S. Senate on Thursday delivered a rare review to Trump over his support for Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who it blames for Khashoggi's death.

The 77-year-old Gülen has often denied involvement in the failed coup.

This is VOA news.

Yellow vest protesters on Sunday occupied dozens of traffic roundabouts in France even as their economic reform movement appears to be losing momentum on [this] the fifth straight weekend of demonstrations.

Some protesters remained Sunday despite a call by the interior minister to free the streets.

Eight people have died in [incidents tied] incidents tied to the yellow vest movement, most of them from traffic accidents linked to roads blocked by protesters.

The U.N. representative for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, is calling for the Saudi-led coalition and the Houthi militia group to respect the cease-fire that was agreed to Thursday after a week of negotiations outside the Swedish capital of Stockholm.

A Houthi spokesman in Sana'a, however, says the cease-fire was not due to officially go into effect until Tuesday.

Correspondent Edward Yeranian reports for VOA from Cairo.

Deputy minister for human rights in the internationally recognized government Nabil Abdel Hafidh told Saudi-owned al-Arabiya TV Sunday the Houthis were "stepping up their shelling of regions south of Hodeida" and the militia "had not stopped attacking private property or looting facilities around the port for the past three days."

He said the government of President Abdrabbu Mansour Hadi "will respond if the Houthis fail to observe the cease-fire."

Supporters of British Prime Minister Theresa May dampened suggestions that the government is planning a second referendum on whether to leave the European Union. They argued that another Brexit vote would worsen divisions in the U.K., not heal them.

Associated Press correspondent Karen Chammas reports.

International Trade Secretary Liam Fox told the BBC that holding another vote on Britain's EU membership would settle little in a country that backed leaving the EU in 2016 by 51.9 percent.

Fox argued that a second referendum could give impetus to a third referendum if some voters were still unhappy with the second outcome, creating an endless and even more difficult situation.

Underscoring the acrimony, May and former Prime Minister Tony Blair have exchanged sniping attacks as Blair called for a second referendum, leading the prime minister to describe his comments as "an insult to the office he once held."

The U.S. Education Department says it will forgive $150 million in federal student loans.

The department has been [begin] begun notifying 15,000 students that their loans will automatically be canceled because they attended colleges that closed while they were still in school or shortly after they finished.

The program set up under then President Barack Obama. The Trump administration had tried to block it.

You can find more on these and other late breaking and developing stories, from around the world, around the clock, at voanews.com and on the VOA news mobile app. I'm Christopher Cruise, VOA news.