UNITED NATIONS — President Obama for the first time said Monday that he would work with Russia and Iran to find a solution to Syria’s long civil war, but leaders of those two countries followed with peace prescriptions that run counter to the U.S. approach.
Obama said any solution must not include continued support for "a tyrant" like Syrian President Bashar Assad, who he said has killed tens of thousands of his own people in a war that began with a crackdown on peaceful protests.
In sharp contrast, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, in separate speeches before the General Assembly, blamed the United States for the war in Syria and said any solution must include Assad and his regime.
“We think it is an enormous mistake to refuse to work with the Syrian government and its armed forces,” Putin said. “No one but the Syrian forces and Kurdish militia are seriously fighting against the Islamic State.”
Putin said much of the terrorist threat in Syria is the result of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. The alternative to aiding Assad is to arm the terrorists, he added.
"Instead of the triumph of democracy, we get violence and social disorder," Putin said. "Tens of thousands of militants are fighting under the banner of the so-called Islamic State. Their ranks include former Iraqi servicemen thrown out after the invasion of their country in 2003."
The clash of words came before Obama and Putin met face-to-face later Monday for 95 minutes, their first formal meeting in more than two years. The meeting was scheduled to last only an hour.
Putin told reporters after the meeting that Russia has not ruled out joining U.S.-led coalition airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria but would not send ground troops into combat. He said any Russian action will be in accordance with international law. READ MORE OF THIS STORY MSN NEWS