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We didn't meddle in US election, Putin tells Trump as pair meet

By AP Reporters

Donald Trump opened his first meeting with Russia President Vladimir Putin yesterday by raising concerns about Moscow's meddling in the 2016 US election, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said.

He said Mr Putin denied being involved.

The two leaders met on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hamburg and spoke through translators.

Mr Trump's decision to confront Mr Putin directly over the election interference fulfilled ardent demands by US politicians that the President must not shy away from the issue in the highly-anticipated meeting.

Mr Trump has avoided stating unequivocally in the past that Russia interfered, even as investigations proceed into whether Mr Trump's campaign colluded with Russians who sought to help him win.

Mr Putin's denial of culpability notwithstanding, he and Mr Trump agreed that the issue has become a hindrance to better relations between the two powers, said Mr Tillerson, who attended the over two-hour-long meeting along with Russia's Foreign Minister.

Mr Tillerson said the discussion about the election meddling was "robust and lengthy".

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Mr Tillerson said the two leaders had agreed to continue the discussion, with an eye toward securing a commitment that Russia will not interfere in US affairs in the future.

"I think the President is rightly focused on how we move forward from something that may be an intractable disagreement at this point," Mr Tillerson said.

The two also discussed a ceasefire deal for south-west Syria that was reached by Russia and the United States.

Though the US and Russia have held conflicting views on Syria in the past, Mr Tillerson said Russia had an interest in seeing the country become a stable place.

The heavily-anticipated meeting has been closely scrutinised for signs of how friendly a rapport Mr Trump and Mr Putin will have. Mr Trump's predecessor Barack Obama had strained ties with the Russian premier.

Mr Trump, however, has expressed an interest in a better US-Russia relationship.

But deep scepticism about Russia in the US and ongoing investigations into whether Mr Trump's campaign co-ordinated with Moscow during last year's election have made a US-Russia detente politically risky.

The Putin meeting came midway through a hectic four-day European visit for Mr Trump, who addressed thousands of Poles in an outdoor speech in Warsaw on Thursday.

Yesterday, he met German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is the host of the G20 summit.

He also had dinner with two Asian allies, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

It is understood that they discussed North Korea's aggression and continued threats.

Meanwhile, anti-globalisation activists have clashed with police across the German port city of Hamburg, leaving scores of officers injured. Responding to a second day of protests as world leaders attended the G20 summit, police ordered in more than 900 additional officers from across the country.

More than 160 police officers were left injured, dozens of activists had to be taken to hospital and more than 70 protesters were detained.

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