Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin

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President Obama differed sharply with Russia’s leader over the Syrian civil war in an icy encounter Monday illustrating how difficult it may be to drive Syrian President Bashar Assad from power, even after some rebel groups begin to receive U.S. weaponry.

Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin held their first face-to-face meeting in a year at the Group of 8 summit of the world’s richest countries days after Obama deepened U.S. involvement in the Syrian conflict. Aides said last week that the CIA would begin supplying arms and ammunition to some opposition forces in hopes of shifting the military balance away from Assad.

Russia, Syria’s most powerful ally, has sent weapons to Assad’s forces and is considering deliveries of sophisticated antiaircraft missile batteries. U.S. officials view Russia’s continued support for Assad as a major obstacle.

In comments to reporters, Obama and Putin expressed support for still-unscheduled Syrian peace negotiations in Geneva, but offered no sign of progress in ending a war that has killed at least 93,000 people.

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