April 1, 2017
From Washington, this is VOA news. I'm David Byrd reporting.
A day of conflicting messages Friday about former national security adviser Michael Flynn's offer to cooperate with congressional investigators.
Flynn has said he would testify to the House Intelligence Committee about possible links between President Donald Trump's campaign advisers and Russia, but only if he is granted immunity from prosecution.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters he was "not going to give Mike Flynn or anybody legal advice" about whether he should testify before congressional investigativecommittees.
"Here you have a president who is telling Mike Flynn and others to go up there, make sure -- in fact, we talked about the other day with members of the administration that the president -- we've made -- volunteered -- this doesn't look like an administration that is not doing everything it can to get to the bottom of this in the appropriate way."
Previously, Flynn and President Donald Trump have said that only people who are guilty of a crime would seek immunity.
President Trump on Friday directed his administration to review U.S. trade deficits and clamp down on countries that abuse trade rules in two executive orders he said would start a new chapter for U.S. workers and businesses.
"The jobs and wealth have been stripped from our country, year after year, decade after decade, trade deficit upon trade deficit reaching more than $700 billion last year alone and lots of jobs."
Under the orders, the U.S. Commerce Department and trade representative are supposed to report their findings on the cause of trade deficits to the president in three months. Trump's trade orders come about a week before a visit by China's leader Xi Jinping where trade issues are expected to be an important part of the agenda.
This is VOA news.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has attended his first meeting at NATO where he pressed for members to boost their contributions to the alliance. As Luis Ramirez reports, Tillerson gave them two months to come up with payment plans.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had a tough message for NATO partners, one they knew was coming. Allies will need to live up to spending a minimum share of two percent of their GDP on defense to keep fulfilling NATO's mission against terrorists and bullies.
For some of Europe's governments, spending more on defense at the expense of social programs and other things is politically risky and convincing them is not an easy job for NATO's leadership.
Germany balked at the calls but in Britain, where Brexit has raised discussions about a need to strengthen security ties with the U.S., the Trump administration has a sympathetic ear.
Luis Ramirez, VOA news, London.
The U.N. envoy for Syria wrapped up a fifth round of talks between opposition leaders and the government, pointing to "incremental" progress while acknowledging no peace deal is foreseeable as the country enters its seventh year of war.
Staffan de Mistura said that negotiators appeared "keen" on taking up a new round, but added Friday he wouldn't announce a new start date before consulting with the organization's Security Council and secretary-general.
"We are in a moment of pushing ahead a(n) agenda. So the work that has been done should not be neither underestimated nor dismissed. They have worked hard with us."
De Mistura said substantive matters were discussed but declined to be specific.
The special envoy's comments came as warplanes pounded rebel-held areas of the Syrian city of Hama on Friday.
As pro-government forces continued to reverse gains made by insurgent groups in the area, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that Syrian troops and allied forces captured at least three rebel-run villages in Hama's norther countryside following an airstrike campaign.
Government forces launched a counterattack after insurgent groups captured a number of government-held areas near Hama last week.
Officials in the U.S. state of Georgia say it will be months before a section of Interstate 85 that collapsed in Atlanta on Thursday will be rebuilt.
The Georgia Department of Transportation's commissioner said on Friday that crews are working to demolish and redesign the bridge.
The overpass collapsed during the Thursday afternoon rush hour after a massive fire broke out beneath the interstate in an area used to store construction materials.
Federal transportation officials have awarded $10 million in emergency funds to help repair the collapsed road.
I'm David Byrd in Washington.
That's the latest world news from VOA.