Obama, Putin discuss Syria; essential difference over Assad remains

U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin during their meeting at the United Nations General Assembly in New YorkBy Jeff Mason and Denis Dyomkin UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – Russia and the United States agreed on Monday to look for a diplomatic end to the Syrian civil war but clashed over the central question of whether Syrian President Bashar al-Assad should retain power. During a 90-minute meeting, U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed that their armed forces should hold talks to avoid coming into conflict in Syria after a Russian military buildup there over the last several weeks. The United States, France and allied countries are bombing Islamic State militants, who have exploited power vacuums to seize parts of Syria and neighboring Iraq as part of a stated goal of creating an Islamic caliphate.

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