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Putin and Obama apart in more ways than one at G20 table

world Updated: Sep 06, 2013 00:58 IST
Barack Obama

US President Barack Obama faced growing pressure from world leaders on Thursday not to launch military strikes in Syria at a summit on the global economy that was hijacked by the conflict.

The G20 developed and developing economies met in St Petersburg to try and forge a united front on how to revive economic growth, but failed to heal divisions over a US plan to wind down a programme to stimulate the world economy.

The club that accounts for two thirds of the world's population looked as divided over therapy for the economy as it is over possible military action in Syria. Obama arrived in Russia's former imperial capital with a showdown looming at a dinner hosted by President Vladimir Putin, with a debate on Syria the main course on the menu.

Obama wore a stiff smile as he approached Putin and grasped his hand. Putin also wore a business-like expression and it was only when they turned to pose for photographers that Obama broke into a broader grin. The first round at the summit went to Putin, as China, the European Union, the BRICS emerging economies and Pope Francis — in a letter — warned of the dangers of military intervention without the UN approval.

Obama is unlikely to be deterred. He said before talks with Japan's PM Shinzo Abe that the use of chemical arms in Syria was "not only a tragedy but also a violation of international law that must be addressed."