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G20 Summit Under Way In St. Petersburg

  • RFE/RL

A two-day Group of 20 summit has opened in St. Petersburg, Russia.

The heads of the world's 20 leading developed and developing economies are scheduled to discuss economic growth, job creation, banking transparency, and fighting tax evasion, but those topics are expected to be overshadowed by the crisis in Syria.

Opening the gathering on September 5, Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed that the leaders set aside time at dinner on the first day to discuss Syria.

U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to push the case for military action to punish the Syrian regime for an alleged chemical-weapons attack.

Putin has said any military action at this stage would be viewed as "aggression."

Washington says that an August 21 attack in the suburbs of the Syrian capital Damascus involved sarin gas and left more than 1,400 dead.

Senate Panel Approval

On September 4, a U.S. Senate panel approved a measure that would pave the way for limited U.S. military action in Syria and set a maximum of 90 days for any operation. It would also ban the use of combat troops.

It was expected to reach the Senate floor for a vote next week. A committee in the House of Representatives is working on its own measure.

Praise For Economic Measures

In his opening speech to the gathering, Putin praised the work done by the G20 since the financial crisis of 2008-2009, saying, “today, the most pressing [economic] problems that were identified have been resolved or are under control."

But the Russian president also warned world leaders against complacency.

"Our main task is the return of the global economy to steady and balanced growth,” he said. “This task, unfortunately, hasn't been resolved yet. This means the systemic risks and conditions for a recurrence of an acute crisis remain."

No Bilateral Meeting

There were no scheduled plans for a bilateral meeting between Obama and Putin, but officials said the two presidents would still have a chance for a less formal exchange on the sidelines.

Ahead of the visit, Obama scrapped a much-anticipated visit to Moscow over Russia's decision to grant temporary asylum to U.S. intelligence leaker Edward Snowden.

Obama is to meet September 6 with Russian human rights activists amid international criticism of a recent Russian law banning gay "propaganda."

With reporting by AP, AFP, and Reuters