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VOA English Newscast 1300 UTC January 25, 2016

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry returns a warm greeting from a crowd as he leaves the Foreign Correspondents Club Restaurant in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Monday, Jan. 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool)
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From Washington, this is VOA News.

I’m Joe Palka reporting.

Secretary of State Kerry comments on start date for Syrian peace talks.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Monday he expects some clarity on the potential start date of Syrian peace talks to come in the next two days.

The U.N. (United Nations) wanted to bring the Syrian government and opposition members together in Geneva for negotiations beginning Monday. But the process has been delayed by disagreements over just who should be invited.

Elsewhere with the Secretary of State, the U.S. is stepping up efforts to help Laos deal with problems including hunger, unexploded ordnances and technology access for the lower Mekong (River).

Mr. Kerry outlined the initiatives during a visit to Laos today, where he is laying the groundwork for a February summit with leaders of 10 ASEAN countries that will be hosted by President Obama.

"Today, I want to really focus on the importance of the summit that will take place in California next month.”

The Laos Communist Party has undergone a change in leadership and Thiti-nan Pongsu-dhirak, a political scientist at Chula-longkorn University, stresses policies are (un) likely to change, as well, under the new leadership and the government will continue to face criticism over its human rights record.

"The new leadership is more of the same. More of the same in terms also of the repression and constraints on civil society and basic freedoms. We have had some scandals in the recent past over disappearances of civil society activists and human rights violations, so that is expected to be maintained."

Laos has just taken over as chairman of ASEAN (The Association of Southeast Asian Nations). The upcoming U.S.-hosted ASEAN summit will also be a focal point for Mr. Kerry at his next stop, which Cambodia. That is another ASEAN country.

This is VOA News.

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Words in This News

clarity – n. the quality of being easily understood; the quality of being easily seen or heard

potential – n. a chance or possibility that something will happen in the future

elsewhere – adv. to or in another place

stepping up – v. increasing

ordnances – n. military supplies, including weapons and ammunition

access – n. a way of getting at or near something; a way of being able to use something

outlined – v. to list or describe only the most important parts

initiatives – n. plans or programs that are designed to solve a problem

laying the groundwork – expression. to prepare

summit – n. a meeting or meetings between the leaders of two or more governments

hosted – v. serving as the individual who welcomes people at a conference; someone who provides a meeting place for an event

focus – v. to make something, such as attention, to be directed at something; to direct your effort at something

undergone – v. to experience or go through

stresses – v. to note

constraints – n. limits or restrictions

basic – adj. forming or relating to the most important part of something

scandals – n. an event in which people are shocked because of behavior that is morally or legally wrong

maintained – v. causing to exist or continue without changing

upcoming – adj. happening or appearing soon

focal – adj. having great or central importance