2016-9-3 13:16




August 27, 2016

From Washington, this is VOA news. I'm David Byrd reporting.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says he and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov have achieved clarity on the path forward for Syria.

Speaking in Geneva after several hours of talks, Mr. Kerry said what he called "narrow issues" remain to be resolved.

"And in the next days our experts will be meeting here in Geneva to conclude the few remaining technical issues and to move forward in order to take the steps necessary to build the confidence to overcome the deep mistrust that does exist on all sides."

The meeting came amid heightened tensions in Syria after Turkey decided earlier this week to send tanks across the border into Syria to clear out a pocket of land controlled by the Islamic State group.

Previous rounds of international negotiations including discussions between the top diplomats from Washington and Moscow have failed to produce an end to the conflict.

Meanwhile, Syrian rebels and their families began evacuating the long-besieged Damascus suburb of Daraya as part of an agreement reached late Thursday with the government.

Under the terms of the deal, about 700 fighters will be allowed safe exit to the opposition-held northern province of Idlib. Another 4,000 civilians will be taken temporarily to a shelter south of Daraya.

In a statement issued in Geneva, the U.N. special envoy for Syria, Stafan de Mistura, called for the protection of the people being evacuated. He said their departure must be voluntary, adding that the U.N. had not been consulted and was not involved in negotiating the deal reached between rebel factions and government forces.

This is VOA news.

France's highest administrative court has overturned the ban on burkinis -- full-body and head-covering swimsuits worn by some Muslim women.

The three-judge State Council on Friday ruled that the ban by the town of Villeneuve-Loubet "dealt a serious and clearly illegal blow to fundamental liberties such as freedom of movement, freedom of conscience and personal liberty."

Marwan Muhammad is the director of the Collective Against Islamophobia in France: "It's huge politically because it sends a clear message to the political elite that you cannot signify part of the population just because of their religion, and it's not acceptable to restrict fundamental freedoms in a context of Islamophobia today, today in France."

The ban imposed by officials in Villeneuve-Loubet alleged that allowing the swimsuit posed a threat to public order, a claim that the court said was not supported by evidence.

About 30 coastal towns have imposed the ban with the blessing of some high officials in the French government.

Prime Minister Manuel Valls has said the swimsuit represents, in his words, the "enslavement of women."

Two strong aftershocks hit the town of Amatrice in central Italy on Friday, hindering rescue and recovery efforts.

The aftershocks, one registering 4.3 and the other 4.7 on the Richter scale, caused more damage to buildings and sent up plumes of smoke.

Since the original temblor hit Amatrice early Wednesday morning, the city has seen more than 500 additional aftershocks.

Meanwhile, civil protection officials have revised the death toll from Wednesday's 6.2 magnitude earthquake to 281. Most of those killed were in Amatrice, Arquata and Accumoli which are largely ruined.

Italy's Civil Protection Department said nearly 400 people have been sent to hospitals for treatment of injuries.

A Kurdish suicide bomber targeted a checkpoint near a police station in Cizre, southeastern Turkey, Friday, killing at least 11 police officers and wounding scores of other people.

Militants linked to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, have claimed responsibility. The terrorist group has been linked to a series of attacks against police targets in the same region.

U.S. central bank Chair Janet Yellen says that continued and solid job growth in the United States has made it more likely the Federal Reserve will raise its short-term interest rates in the coming weeks or months. Yellen's upbeat assessment of the economy came Friday during a much anticipated speech in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

The fed chair gave no indication of when rates might rise, but her remarks open the possibility that an announcement could come in late September, when central bank officials meet again.

For more on these stories, visit our website. I'm David Byrd in Washington.

That's the latest world news from VOA.

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