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Obama and Putin bring chill wind to St Petersburg as spectre of Syria crisis looms over G20 summit

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SAINT PETERSBURG - SEPTEMBER 05:  In this handout image provided by Host Photo Agency, President of the United States of America Barack Obama arrives for the G20 summit on September 5, 2013 in St. Petersburg, Russia.  The G20 summit is expected to be dominated by the issue of military action in Syria while issues surrounding the global economy, including tax avoidance by multinationals, will also be discussed duing the two-day summit.  (Photo by Iliya Pitalev/Host Photo Agency via Getty Images)

SAINT PETERSBURG - SEPTEMBER 05: In this handout image provided by Host Photo Agency, President of the United States of America Barack Obama arrives for the G20 summit on September 5, 2013 in St. Petersburg, Russia. The G20 summit is expected to be dominated by the issue of military action in Syria while issues surrounding the global economy, including tax avoidance by multinationals, will also be discussed duing the two-day summit. (Photo by Iliya Pitalev/Host Photo Agency via Getty Images)

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Russia's President Vladimir Putin, third right, speaks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, second right, while meeting with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, left, on the sidelines of a G-20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia on Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013. The threat of missiles over the Mediterranean is weighing on world leaders meeting on the shores of the Baltic this week, and eclipsing economic battles that usually dominate when the G-20 world economies meet. (AP Photo/Grigory Dukor, Pool)

Russia's President Vladimir Putin, third right, speaks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, second right, while meeting with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, left, on the sidelines of a G-20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia on Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013. The threat of missiles over the Mediterranean is weighing on world leaders meeting on the shores of the Baltic this week, and eclipsing economic battles that usually dominate when the G-20 world economies meet. (AP Photo/Grigory Dukor, Pool)

AP

Russia's President Vladimir Putin, center, shakes hands with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, left, as Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, right, looks on during a meeting at a G-20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia on Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013. The threat of missiles over the Mediterranean is weighing on world leaders meeting on the shores of the Baltic this week, and eclipsing economic battles that usually dominate when the G-20 world economies meet. (AP Photo/Grigory Dukor, Pool)

Russia's President Vladimir Putin, center, shakes hands with Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, left, as Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, right, looks on during a meeting at a G-20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia on Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013. The threat of missiles over the Mediterranean is weighing on world leaders meeting on the shores of the Baltic this week, and eclipsing economic battles that usually dominate when the G-20 world economies meet. (AP Photo/Grigory Dukor, Pool)

AP

U.S. President Barack Obama, inside car,  arrives for the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia on Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013. The threat of missiles over the Mediterranean is weighing on world leaders meeting on the shores of the Baltic this week, and eclipsing economic battles that usually dominate when the G-20 world economies meet. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

U.S. President Barack Obama, inside car, arrives for the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia on Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013. The threat of missiles over the Mediterranean is weighing on world leaders meeting on the shores of the Baltic this week, and eclipsing economic battles that usually dominate when the G-20 world economies meet. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)

AP

SAINT PETERSBURG - SEPTEMBER 05:  In this handout image provided by Host Photo Agency, Prime Minister of Britain, David Cameron (C) and George Osbourne, British Chancellor of the Exchequer (R) arrive at the G20 summit on September 5, 2013 in St. Petersburg, Russia.  The G20 summit is expected to be dominated by the issue of military action in Syria while issues surrounding the global economy, including tax avoidance by multinationals, will also be discussed duing the two-day summit.  (Photo by Konstantin Salomatin/Host Photo Agency via Getty Images)

SAINT PETERSBURG - SEPTEMBER 05: In this handout image provided by Host Photo Agency, Prime Minister of Britain, David Cameron (C) and George Osbourne, British Chancellor of the Exchequer (R) arrive at the G20 summit on September 5, 2013 in St. Petersburg, Russia. The G20 summit is expected to be dominated by the issue of military action in Syria while issues surrounding the global economy, including tax avoidance by multinationals, will also be discussed duing the two-day summit. (Photo by Konstantin Salomatin/Host Photo Agency via Getty Images)

Getty Images

SAINT PETERSBURG - SEPTEMBER 05:  In this handout image provided by Host Photo Agency, President of the United States of America Barack Obama arrives at the G20 summit on September 5, 2013 in St. Petersburg, Russia.  The G20 summit is expected to be dominated by the issue of military action in Syria while issues surrounding the global economy, including tax avoidance by multinationals, will also be discussed duing the two-day summit.  (Photo by Roman Yandolin/Host Photo Agency via Getty Images)

SAINT PETERSBURG - SEPTEMBER 05: In this handout image provided by Host Photo Agency, President of the United States of America Barack Obama arrives at the G20 summit on September 5, 2013 in St. Petersburg, Russia. The G20 summit is expected to be dominated by the issue of military action in Syria while issues surrounding the global economy, including tax avoidance by multinationals, will also be discussed duing the two-day summit. (Photo by Roman Yandolin/Host Photo Agency via Getty Images)

Getty Images

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SAINT PETERSBURG - SEPTEMBER 05: In this handout image provided by Host Photo Agency, President of the United States of America Barack Obama arrives for the G20 summit on September 5, 2013 in St. Petersburg, Russia. The G20 summit is expected to be dominated by the issue of military action in Syria while issues surrounding the global economy, including tax avoidance by multinationals, will also be discussed duing the two-day summit. (Photo by Iliya Pitalev/Host Photo Agency via Getty Images)

American president Barack Obama has touched in St Petersburg, Russia, ahead of the G20 summit.

Mr Obama arrived today from Sweden, the first stop on his three-day overseas trip.

The Stockholm visit was added after Mr Obama cancelled plans to hold talks ahead of the G20 with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Moscow, in retaliation for Russia granting asylum to National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The White House said Mr Obama and Mr Putin will not hold formal one-on-one talks on the sidelines of the summit.

The economy-focused summit is expected to be overshadowed by the prospect of a US-led strike against Syria.

The US president is seeking to rally support from international leaders for taking military action to punish Syrian president Bashar Assad for an apparent chemical weapons attack.

Russia has warned that a US strike on Syria's atomic facilities might result in a nuclear catastrophe and is urging the UN to present a risk analysis of such a scenario.

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Russia's foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Lukashevich said a strike on a miniature reactor near Damascus or other nuclear installations could contaminate the region with radioactivity, adding: "The consequences could be catastrophic."

He spoke as Russia prepares to host the the G20 summit in St Petersburg, which is expected to be largely dominated by the Syria crisis.

Russia's Interfax news agency said Moscow also intends to bring up the issue at next week's 35-nation International Atomic Energy Agency board meeting.

IAEA spokeswoman Gill Tudor said the agency is ready to "consider the questions raised" by Mr Lukashevich if it receives a formal request to do so from Moscow.

Meanwhile, China warned other world powers of the global economic risks of any US-led military intervention in Syria.

Vice finance minister Zhu Guangyao, speaking in St Petersburg, said such action "would definitely have a negative impact on the global economy, especially on the oil price".

He cited estimates that a 10 US dollar rise in oil prices could push down global growth by 0.25%.

He urged a negotiated UN solution to the stand-off over allegations that Syria's government used chemical weapons against its own people, expressing hope that "the world economic balance will become more stable rather than more complex and more challenging".

US president Barack Obama aims to confront Syria's key patron, Russia, as well as fellow leaders sceptical about his call for an international military strike against Bashar Assad's government.

The White House went out of its way to say Mr Obama would not meet one-on-one with Russian president Vladimir Putin in St Petersburg, but will meet on the summit's sidelines with the leaders of France, China and Japan.


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