At the U.N. General Assembly, U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin disagree over whether to work with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Vanessa Johnston reports.
It appeared to be a tense moment. U.S. President Barack Obama clinking glasses with Russian President Vladimir Putin at a United Nations luncheon Monday. Earlier, the two leaders had delivered competing speeches at the annual U.N. General Assembly. The central issue: whether to work with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to end his country's four year civil war...that's left at least 200,000 people dead and driven millions from their homes. For Obama, the answer was no -- describing Assad as a tyrant. (SOUNDBITE) (English) U.S. PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA, SAYING: "The United States is prepared to work with any nation, including Russia and Iran, to resolve the conflict, but we must recognize that there cannot be, after so much bloodshed, so much carnage, a return to the pre-war status quo." But Putin insisted there was no alternative to cooperating with Assad's military, as part of an effort to defeat Islamic State militants. (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) RUSSIAN PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN SAYING: "We think it is an enormous mistake to refuse to cooperate with the Syrian government and its armed forces, who are valiantly fighting terrorism face-to-face. We should finally acknowledged that no one but President Assad's armed forces and Kurdish militia are truly fighting the Islamic State and other terrorist organizations in Syria." A disagreement that the two leaders carried with them as they headed into their bilateral meeting later that day.