Keep in mind Im somebody who opposed the war in Iraq and am not interested in repeating mistakes of us basing decisions on faulty intelligence, Obama said.
The press conference came hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin warned the U.S. against military strikes in Syria, saying that without the sanction of the United Nations any assault would be inadmissible and can only be interpreted as an aggression.
Putin said in an interview with the Associated Press that the Russian government has provided some components of the S-300 air-defense missile system to Syria but has suspended shipments for now. He suggested that Russia may sell the potent missile systems elsewhere if Western nations attack Syria without U.N. Security Council backing.
Russia has routinely vetoed sanctions against Syria in the United Nations, but Putin didnt rule out supporting a U.N. resolution to support military strikes if its proven that the Syrian regime used chemical weapons.
He made clear his threshold for such support is high, calling it absolutely absurd that the government would use chemical weapons at a time when it was closing in on the rebels.
Though he canceled a pre-summit meeting with Putin, Obama said he remains hopeful he can convince Putin to drop his support for the Syrian regime. He said the U.S. shares some concern with Russia about certain elements of the opposition, but that it is not possible for Mr. Assad to regain legitimacy in a country where hes killed tens of thousands of his own people. That will not happen.
But, he said of Putin, I will continue to engage him because I think that international action would be much more effective.
U.S.-Russia relations have been deteriorating for 18 months, including divisions over Russias recently enacted anti-gay laws. Obama made it plain he will bring up the issue, lauding his Swedish hosts without prompting for treating gays and lesbians equally under the law. Obama, who will meet Thursday with human rights activists in St. Petersburg, said the U.S. and Sweden stand up for universal human rights not only in America and Europe but beyond, because we believe that when these rights are respected, nations are more successful and our world is safer and more just.
In his interview, Putin insisted he and Obama could have constructive talks even though Putin said he was disappointed Obama canceled the meeting with him in Moscow.
A White House official said that although there was no plan for a formal meeting with Putin at the summit in St. Petersburg, the White House would expect the two presidents to have an opportunity to speak on the margins of the various meetings of the G-20.
Obama will hold formal bilateral meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and French President Francois Hollande.
Putin downplayed his frosty relationship Obama, which Russia analysts have said is among the worst in U.S.-Russian and U.S.-Soviet leader relationships.
President Obama hasnt been elected by the American people in order to be pleasant to Russia, Putin told the AP. And your humble servant hasnt been elected by the people of Russia to be pleasant to someone, either.
We work, we argue about some issues. We are human, Putin said. Sometimes one of us gets vexed. But I would like to repeat once again that global mutual interests form a good basis for finding a joint solution to our problems.
In a sign that the U.S. surveillance program continues to be a source of concern even among U.S. allies, the first question Obama got from a Swedish reporter at the press conference was about the intrusive National Security Agency program.
Obama insisted the U.S. is not snooping at peoples emails and or listening to their phone calls.
The programs focus, he said, is on counterterrorism and cyber security.
White House briefing with Obama and 'red line' at 34:16