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VOA English Newscast: May 24, 2016, 1200 UTC

Vietnamese wait for US President Barack Obama outside the Jade Pagoda in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, May 24, 2016.
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From Washington, this is VOA News.

I’m Marti Johnson reporting.

President Barack Obama, speaking in Vietnam, says the Vietnamese people and the American people are "embarking on a 100-year journey together."

Whether the relationship involving the former enemies solidifies, Mr. Obama says his visit has put it on a firmer footing for decades to come.

Earlier today in Hanoi, he spoke of the war the two countries fought 50 years ago.

"So, I come here mindful of the past, mindful of our difficult history, but focused on the future."

In the audience for the U.S. leader's address today (were) more than 2,000 people, including some Vietnamese government officials.

The speech also touched on the very sensitive topic of human rights, with Mr. Obama noting the rights to freedom of speech and the press, as well as the rights to freedom of assembly, are enshrined in Vietnam's constitution.

A series of bomb blasts killed nearly 150 people in two normally quiet Syrian coastal cities on Monday.

The blasts, claimed by the Islamic State, took place in the government strongholds of Jableh and Tartus.

Tartus resident Mahmoud Hasan says the series of blasts in his city targeted a garage and a supermarket.

Bombs also struck a hospital and bus stations, as well an electric power station.

The IS group said the targets were members of President Bashar al-Assad's Alawite minority.

Emerson College analyst Yasser Munif says the bombings represent a change in tactics by the IS group, which is under growing pressure in areas it controls.

“ISIS is trying to bring attention to the course, with the majority Allowite population, and trying to trigger some kind of sectarian conflict between Sunni (Muslim) and the Allowites and the Shia, because it’s under a lot of pressure in other areas of Syria and Iraq.”

This is VOA News.

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