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World powers fail to heal Syria rift at G-20 dinner

Update: September, 06/2013 - 11:00

SAINT PETERSBURG – World powers discussed the Syria crisis over dinner at the G-20 summit but failed to bridge deeply entrenched divisions over a US push for military action against President Bashar al-Assad's administration.

As tensions over the Syrian conflict threatened to torpedo the working schedule of the G-20 summit outside Saint Petersburg, host Vladimir Putin made a last-minute announcement for participants to air their views over dinner.

The leaders took turns over three hours to reiterate their positions on the issue in 10-minute speeches, a diplomatic source close to the talks said.

"The G-20 has just now finished the dinner session at which the divisions about Syria were confirmed," Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta, who attended the dinner, said in a comment on his official Twitter feed.

Russia has led opposition to US-led military action against Assad's government over a chemical attack on August 21 outside Damascus, which Washington says was perpetrated by Damascus.

In a new bid for a peaceful solution for Syria, the UN announced that its special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi would attend meetings at the two-day summit to push for peace talks.

"Let us remember: every day that we lose is a day when scores of innocent civilians die," the UN quoted Ban as telling the G-20 leaders at the dinner. "Providing more arms to either side is not the answer. There is no military solution."

He also reminded leaders of the humanitarian toll the crisis was taking on neighbouring countries such as Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey, paying tribute to their generosity in hosting refugees.

A French diplomatic source said the closed-door dinner, hosted by Putin at the luxurious imperial palace of Peterhof outside Saint Petersburg, was not meant to secure a deal.

"The objective was an exchange between the top world leaders and not to come to an agreement" on the crisis, said the source.

Following the meal, which ended at around 1:00am (2100 GMT), the leaders of the world's top emerging and developed nations were treated to a rendition of a abridged version of the opera "La Traviata". AFP

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