February 20, 2017
From Washington, this is VOA news. I'm David DeForest reporting.
Iraqi forces have begun a military offensive aimed at dislodging Islamic State militants from the western part of the city of Mosul. The U.S.-backed effort is the latest phase in a four-month-long operation to retake the country's second largest city.
Iraqi forces have already retaken several villages and are aiming for an airport.
U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told reporters traveling with him Sunday that he will decide soon whether to recommend an increase in the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
"We are putting our thoughts together now, the president has been rightfully reticent on it because he's waiting for my assessment and the assessment from the intelligence community and he is open to my advice on it. But first of all I've got to formulate where I stand."
Secretary Mattis said he spoke for several hours Sunday via video conference with General John Nicholson, the top U.S. military official in Afghanistan.
Somali officials say at least 30 people were killed, dozens wounded when a car bomb exploded Sunday in a market in the capital Mogadishu.
The blast ripped through a market in Kawo-Goday in Wadajir district Sunday afternoon.
No one claimed responsibility, but officials are blaming al-Shabaab militants.
Ecuadoreans voted in a presidential election Sunday. They are set to decide whether to continue with their socialist administration or switch to a conservative government.
The South Korean government says it believes North Korea masterminded the assassination of Kim Jong-Nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. A Unification Ministry spokesman made the remarks Sunday in a briefing.
Earlier, Malaysian police said they are looking for four North Korean suspects who they say have left the country.
This is VOA news.
U.S. President Donald Trump is interviewing four candidates Sunday to be his national security adviser.
The president is spending the weekend in Florida, planning to discuss the job in person or by phone with acting national security adviser Keith Kellogg, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, General H.R. McMaster and the superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, General Robert Caslen.
The White House said there could be other meetings for the job as well.
President Trump will soon release a "more streamlined version" of a presidential order banning immigrants from seven terrorism-plagued nations from entering the U.S.
Speaking at the annual Munich Security Conference in Germany, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said the new version of the travel order will not prevent foreign nationals with either work visas or "green card" permanent residency permits from re-entering the United States. Nor will it affect foreign travelers already flying to U.S. ports of entry when the order takes effect.
He said the new order will be better implemented and avoid the chaos that resulted from the earlier version.
The order outlines plans for expanding the categories of people that can be deported and offers officials wider discretion in deciding who to deport.
United Nations Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura says he hopes to take advantage of what he calls a "new momentum" in the upcoming round of Syria talks this week in Geneva.
He said the outcome of the talks between the Syrian government and rebels depends on the U.S. position.
He spoke while attending the Munich Security Conference in Germany.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, his wife, Karen, and daughter, Charlotte, toured the site of the Dachau concentration camp near Munich.
The vice president spoke at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday and then flew to Brussels on Sunday.
"... greetings from President Donald Trump and I also bring the warm appreciation of the American people ... long-term alliance with the people of Belgium."
Pence planned meetings with NATO and European Union officials.
Former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi resigned Sunday as head of the ruling Democratic Party. That move opens a way for leadership fight, in which Mr. Renzi hopes to seek reelection and in so doing end the party's internal feuding.
In other European political news, French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen visited Beirut Sunday. The far-right leader planned meetings with the Lebanese head of state and Christian leaders.
It is believed that she is trying to burnish her reputation as a defender of Christians in the Middle East.
From the VOA news center in Washington, I'm David DeForest.
That's the latest world news from VOA.
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