February 3, 2017
From Washington, this is VOA news. I'm David DeForest reporting.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said Thursday contrary to media reports, President Donald Trump did not, in fact, hang up on him during a recent phone call.
The two leaders held a reportedly contentious conversation about an Obama administration agreement obligating the U.S. to take in about 1,200 illegal migrants, mostly from Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran.
The migrants were caught trying to enter Australia illegally and are being held at camps located on several islands.
Mr. Trump is not happy with that agreement.
"For whatever reason, President Obama said that they were going to take probably well over a thousand illegal immigrants who were in prisons and they were going to bring them and take them into this country. And I just said why?"
Mr. Turnbull says the U.S. is still committed to going forward with the agreement.
The Pentagon, meanwhile, says a list of exemptions to President Trump's 90-day ban on immigration from seven countries will now include people who have aided the U.S. military.
Opinion polls show the ban is supported by roughly one half of all Americans.
There were attacks in eastern Ukraine Thursday, the fifth day of renewed fighting between government troops and Russian-backed rebels.
Two Ukrainian soldiers were killed overnight and ten were wounded.
The rebels say one of their fighters was killed.
The sound of shelling was heard from the direction of the town of Avdiyivka.
[Americans united] American United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley condemned what she called Russia's "aggressive actions" in eastern Ukraine and warned that U.S. sanctions would remain on Russia until the Crimean Peninsula is returned to Ukraine.
She called for an end to the fighting in eastern Ukraine.
This is VOA news.
The U.S. Treasury Department announced Thursday that it is easing some restrictions on business transactions with Russia's Security Service despite cyber-sanctions put in place by former President Barack Obama.
The White House says the move doesn't mean the U.S. is easing sanctions on Russia.
A Pentagon spokesman is denying reports that U.S. warships have fired cannons and rockets at [an al-Qaeda] al-Qaeda militants in Yemen's southern coastal area.
Yemeni security officials say attacks have been going on there for five days.
Colombia's second-largest rebel group, the National Liberation Army, turned a captive former congressman over to a humanitarian commission Thursday.
The release of the captive was a key condition for the start of peace talks. At the same time, the government released two jailed rebels.
Peace talks are set to begin next week in Ecuador.
No one is expecting a quick agreement.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is visiting Turkey where she urged the country to uphold democracy.
She made the plea as Turkey plans to hold a referendum on increasing the powers of the presidency.
Ms. Merkel held what was was at times a tense exchange of views with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis said Thursday the Trump administration is committed to strengthening relations with South Korea in the face of what he called the "provocations" of that country from North Korea.
Mattis spoke alongside South Korea's prime minister at the start of his first overseas trip as Pentagon chief.
His trip also includes a stop in Japan.
New Secretary of State Rex Tillerson spoke to employees for the first time Thursday, saying he will adopt principles of accountability, honesty and respect to ensure the agency operates in the most "productive and most efficient way possible."
"What I ask of you and what I demand of myself - I will embrace accountability, honesty, and respect no less than anyone."
Tillerson said employees should be permitted to express their political opinions but that differing personal convictions should not be allowed to harm the department's ability to work as a team.
Here is the latest on the confirmation process to fill President Trump's cabinet.
A U.S. Senate committee voting with only Republicans attending has voted to send to the full Senate the nomination of Scott Pruitt to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.
Congressman Michael Mulvaney moved closer Thursday to confirmation as White House budget director. Two committees approved his nomination in a vote along party lines.
U.S. President Donald Trump Thursday said terrorism is a fundamental thereat to religious freedom. He spoke at the annual National Prayer Breakfast in Washington.
From the VOA news center in Washington, I'm David DeForest.
That's the latest world news from VOA.