President Barack Obama says Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's position on Syria _ that he does not have the right to ask Syrian President Bashar Assad to step down _ is based on what's best for Iraq and not influenced by Iran.
The Obama administration has called for Assad to step down. Iraq abstained from Arab League votes suspending Syria's membership and imposing sanctions. Those positions align Iraq more closely with Iran, a key Syrian ally.
Al-Maliki appeared in a news conference Monday with Obama.
Al-Maliki said he does not encourage economic sanctions because they hurt citizens of the targeted country.
Obama said he and al-Maliki may have different tactical views on Syria but that al-Maliki has the interests of Iraq in mind.