U.S., Russia divided over Syria but willing to hold talks

The United States and Russia remained divided Monday over how to deal with the Syrian crisis, but agreed to continue to work toward holding an international conference on the issue.

U.S. President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin also expressed hope Iran's election of Hasan Rowhani as next president will lead to progress in negotiations over the country's nuclear programs, while agreeing to enhance cooperation in addressing North Korea's nuclear issue.

"Our opinions do not coincide" over the Syrian issue, Putin told a joint press session with Obama after their meeting on the sidelines of a summit of the Group of Eight major nations in Northern Ireland.

"But all of us have the intention to stop the violence in Syria, to stop the growth of victims and to solve the situation peacefully," Putin said.

Obama said, "We do have differing perspectives on the problem but we share an interest in reducing the violence, securing chemical weapons."

Obama and Putin said they are committed to trying to hold an envisaged conference in Geneva with the parties concerned.

The United States has urged Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down, saying Washington could provide military support for rebels, against whom it accuses the Assad regime of deploying chemical weapons last year.

But Russia has opposed the U.S. position and remains skeptical about the U.S. allegation of chemical weapons.

On Iran, Putin said there will be "new opportunities" to solve the Iranian nuclear problem. Rowhani was a former top nuclear negotiator, or secretary general of the Iranian Supreme National Security Council.

Obama said both leaders expressed "cautious optimism" that with a new election there, they may be able to move forward on a dialogue that allows them to resolve the problems with Iran's nuclear program.

It was the first meeting between Obama and Putin since the U.S. president started to serve a second four-year term this year.

The leaders released a set of statements on their cooperation on the issues of nuclear nonproliferation, antiterrorism and cybersecurity.