**US: Syria's Assad Crossed 'Red Line' with Chemical Weapons**
Officials say Washington is moving forward with a plan to provide arms to Syrian rebels, a move that prompted a positive early reaction from U.S. allies in Europe.
The decision came after White House officials said an intelligence report found conclusive evidence that Damascus used chemical weapons, including deadly sarin gas, on a small scale against Syrian rebels during the past year.
In response, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said Thursday that President Barack Obama decided to authorize "direct military support" to the opposition. U.S. officials later acknowledged this support would include weapons and ammunition.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Friday that London agrees with the U.S. assessment on chemical weapons use, and called for a "strong, determined" response from the international community.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen also welcomed what he called the "clear U.S. statement." He said the use of chemical weapons is "completely unacceptable" and called on Syria to let the U.N. investigate the reports.
But Russia, Syria's ally, said the evidence provided by the U.S. "does not look convincing." Yuri Ushakov, an aide to Russian President Vladimir Putin, also said the expanded U.S. military aid will hamper efforts to convene a Syria peace conference.
U.S. intelligence officials have been saying for months they suspect chemical weapons were used by the Syrian government . But Mr. Obama had said he needed to see firm evidence before deciding his next move. The U.S. has so far only provided non-lethal aid to the rebels.
**UN: Africa to Drive Rise in World Population to 9.6 Bn in 2050**
A new U.N. report says the world's population is likely to increase by almost one billion in the next 12 years, with most of the growth happening in developing regions such as Africa.
The report released Thursday by the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs projects a rise in the global population from the current level of 7.2 billion to 8.1 billion in 2025.
The U.N. says the figure is expected to reach 9.6 billion in 2050, primarily on growth in high-fertility African nations and countries with large populations such as India, Indonesia, Pakistan, the Philippines and the United States. In the next 37 years, the population of developed regions is seen remaining largely unchanged at around 1.3 billion.
The report says women in 29 African nations with high fertility rates have an average of five or more children.
The U.N. study says another factor contributing to population growth is longer life spans in the world's least developed countries, many of them affected by HIV/AIDS. It says life expectancy is projected to increase in those nations from 58 years in the 2005-2010 period to 70 years in 2045-2050.
Another key prediction in the report is that India's population will surpass that of China around 2028, when both countries are expected to have around 1.45 billion people. It also says Nigeria's population is likely to exceed that of the United States by 2050.