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G8 challenges Russia to sign up to Syria peace plan

G8 challenges Russia to sign up to Syria peace plan

Enniskillen: World leaders were to fight for a consensus on Syria on the final day of the G8 summit today, after challenging Russian President Vladimir Putin to get on board or be left out in the cold.

The meeting of world leaders in Northern Ireland was also due to seek a deal on tax evasion but it was the divisions over the civil war in Syria that threatened to overshadow the second day of the gathering.

Presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin struggled to hide their sharp differences on the conflict although they agreed they would push the fragile drive for a peace conference in Geneva.

In what appeared to be an attempt to face down Putin, British officials said the other seven G8 nations could go as far as issuing their own end-of-conference statement on Syria without Russia, which backs President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

Putin and Obama met for an hour of talks at the Lough Erne golf resort and in a grim-faced press conference afterwards said they had agreed to push all the parties in the conflict to attend a Geneva conference.

But the divisions between two nations that are now essentially arming different sides of the conflict were clear.

"Of course our opinions do not converge, but all of us have the intention to stop the violence in Syria and stop the growth in the number of victims," said Putin, who has shown contempt for plans by the White House to begin arming selected rebel groups in Syria.

He said he and Obama agreed that the vicious civil war must end "peacefully" and through peace talks.

The US president also unveiled a new USD 300 million aid package for refugees inside and outside Syria.

In comments to PBS television broadcast later, Obama was sceptical about the effectiveness of setting up a no-fly zone in Syria or other major US military action.

Some critics had proposed "we go in hot and heavy, no fly zones, setting up humanitarian corridors, and so forth".

But the situation was far more complex, he told the US broadcaster.

Earlier, the British summit hosts raised the possibility of the other G8 nations issuing a statement about Syria without Russia, in what is bound to be seen as a provocative move by Putin.

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