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VOA news 2020-02-13

This is VOA news. I’m David Byrd.

The head of the World Health Organization said Wednesday the number of cases of infection with the new coronavirus in China has stabilized. But he warned that apparent slowdown should be viewed with caution.

At the end of a two-day meeting on research and innovation into measures to tackle the new virus, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that his organization fears outbreaks in countries with weaker health care systems than China.

“Our greatest fear remains the damage this coronavirus could do in a country like DRC. Even as the flames of one outbreak begin to die down, we are fighting another fire-front.”

China’s President Xi Jinping called on leaders of the ruling Communist Party Wednesday to maintain the fight against the virus.

In Cambodia, a cruise ship, the MS Westerdam, was allowed to dock after being refused entry to several countries because of fears one of its passengers might have the virus.

President Donald Trump is praising the decision to seek a lower sentence for his longtime friend, Roger Stone, even as questions swirled about political influence in the case. AP’s Jennifer King reports.

At a meeting with the president, first lay of Ecuador, President Trump told reporters he doesn’t want to say he is considering a pardon for Roger Stone. But he is glad the Justice Department overruled prosecutors who were seeking a 7-to-9-year sentence for his longtime confidant.

“You have murderers and drug addicts that don’t get nine years.”

The four lawyers who prosecuted Roger Stone quit the case Tuesday night.

“I didn’t speak to them by the way, just so you understand.”

The president tweeted congratulations to Attorney General William Barr for the move.

The Justice Department says the attorney general will testify about the issue for the House Judiciary Committee next month.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer wants an investigation by the DOJ’s inspector general.

Jennifer King, Washington.

For more, visit our website. This is VOA news.

Italy’s Senate voted Wednesday to lift far-right leader Matteo Salvini’s immunity from prosecution.

As Lucy Fielder reports, that means the former interior minister could now face trial over his refusal to let migrants disembark at an Italian port.

The accusation that he illegally detained migrants at sea last year when he refused as interior minister at the time to let them disembark from the Gregoretti coastguard vessel, ignoring pleas from human rights groups.

Magistrates believe that it was an abuse of power that amounted to de facto kidnapping.

In his 14 months at the Interior Ministry, Salvini made tackling migrant boats a priority, barring ports to them and threatening charities operating them with fees.

Under Italian law, former ministers can’t be tried for actions undertaken while in office unless parliament authorizes it.

That’s Lucy Fielder reporting.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Wednesday his military would set aside past cease-fire agreements and strike Syrian government forces if another Turkish soldier is hurt. Reuters’ Joe Davies reports.

Turkey’s President Erdoğan is warning that attacks by Syrian government forces on his military will be met with the same overwhelming response.

“If there is the smallest injury to our soldiers on the observation posts or other places, I am declaring from here that we will hit the regime forces everywhere from today, regardless of the lines of the Sochi agreement or Idlib.”

Turkey is allied with some rebel groups opposed to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Russia, a close ally of the Syrian government, hashed out a deal with Turkey two years ago to create a de-militarized zone in Idlib. But the Turkish military casualties have sparked some of the most serious confrontations between Ankara and Damascus in the war to date.

In the last 10 weeks alone, the fighting has driven nearly 700,000 people from their homes.

That’s Reuters’ Joe Davies reporting.

Pope Francis has refused to allow the ordination of married men as priests or women as deacons in the Amazon.

As Sabina Castelfranco reports from Rome, the pontiff’s decision comes amid a [clerhy] clergy shortage, that is, in the region.

Pope Francis’s Apostolic Exhortation on the “Beloved Amazon,” made public on Wednesday, made no change to the Roman Catholic Church’s centuries-old rule on celibacy. The majority of bishops from the Amazon region had voted at the end of their synod in the Vatican three months ago to allow some married men to be ordained and for women to serve as deacons. But in his document, the pope ignored that proposal.

Sabina Castelfranco, for VOA news, Rome.

For more on these stories and the rest of the day’s news, be sure to log on to our website. That’s voanews.com. I’m David Byrd, VOA news.

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