Obama, Putin agree on need to prevent Syrian ‘civil war'

The two leaders were meeting for the first time since Russian voters returned Putin to the Kremlin. Obama had a good personal rapport with former president Dmitry Medvedev, but officials on both sides have done little to conceal that the Obama-Putin dynamic is frostier.

Still, Putin described Monday's discussion as "very meaningful." He thanked Obama for his support for Russia's accession to the WTO, which he said would "help to further develop the economic relations between our two countries, to promote the creation of jobs in both countries.

And the Russian leader invited Obama to visit Moscow — a trip that cannot practically occur before the November elections. Obama has already said he will miss a summit Putin will host in Vladivostock right around the time of the Democratic nominating convention. And Republicans, including Mitt Romney, have been hammering Obama's Russia policy, describing it as all give and no get.

Obama has said that his "reset" in relations got Moscow to cooperate more closely on economic sanctions meant to force Iran to bow to pressure to halt its suspect nuclear program, and secured Russian help with opening supply routes for NATO-led troops in Afghanistan.

"We, in fact, did have a candid, thoughtful and thorough conversation on a whole range of bilateral and international issues," Obama said.

"We agreed that there's still time and space to resolve diplomatically the issue of Iran's potential development of nuclear weapons, as well as its interest in developing peaceful nuclear power," Obama said.

"Mr. President, I look forward to visiting Russia again, and I look forward to hosting you in the United States," Obama said.

The president alluded to "areas of disagreement" on strategic issues and said he and Putin agreed "that we can find constructive ways to manage through any bilateral tensions."

"We discussed a range of strategic issues, including missile defense, and resolved to continue to work through some of the difficult problems involved there," said Obama.

Obama drew heavy Republican fire when he told Medvedev in March that he would have "more flexibility" on issues like missile defense after November's election.

Russia opposes the deployment of American missile defense assets in countries it considers part of its traditional sphere of influence. American officials have taken pains to emphasize that the system targets so-called rogue states like Iran, not Russia.

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