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TODAY   |  June 18, 2013

Obama clarifies his position on Syria at G-8 summit

At the G-8 summit in Ireland, President Obama spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss his goals in intervening in the Syrian conflict. Meanwhile polls show the American public does not want to arm Syrian rebels. NBC’s Chuck Todd reports.

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>> on today's final meetings of the g-8 summit in ireland. much of the focus today on the civil war in syria . chuck todd is traveling with the president. chuck, good morning to you.

>>> good morning, matt. new polls at home show the american public does not side with president obama 's decision to arm the syrian rebels. syria has been the main focus at the g-8 with western allies trying to convince russia it's in their best interest to stop backing bashar al assad . simply dialing back the rhetoric was seen as a sign of progress.

>> smiles across the aisle this morning in the family photo. as the president concludes a g-8 dominated by syria he used a tape before he left to clarify his position.

>> we're not taking sides in a religious war .

>> reporter: he pushed back at the criticism that he took too long to help the opposition to bashar al assad militarily.

>> this argument that we should have gone in earlier or heavier in some fashion and the tragedy and chaos in syria wouldn't be taking place, i think is wrong.

>> reporter: in the meeting with vladimir putin both men look like they get along.

>> the president wants to relax me with his statement.

>> the friendly banter, hardly the hardening of cold war tension some anticipated. the main objection was to say they weren't trying to overthrow the entire syrian government. ju just bashar himself.

>> we share the same idea on chemical weapons .

>> reporter: late last night the russian government reiterated itself stance, no preconditions and that includes the idea of bashar al assad 's departure. he'll head to the brandonburg gate where he'll make a speech that marks the 50th anniversary of the famous jfk speech.

>>> chuck, thank you very much.