By Tom Perry and Jeff Mason BEIRUT/RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama urged Russia on Sunday to stop bombing "moderate" rebels in Syria in support of its ally Bashar al-Assad, a campaign seen in the West as a major obstacle to latest efforts to end the war. Major powers agreed on Friday to a limited cessation of hostilities in Syria but the deal does not take effect until the end of this week and was not signed by any warring parties - the Damascus government and numerous rebel factions fighting it. Russian bombing raids directed at rebel groups are helping the Syrian army to achieve what could be its biggest victory of the war in the battle for Aleppo, the country's largest city and commercial center before the conflict.
Election officials began counting ballots Sunday after the Central African Republic voted in delayed legislative elections and a presidential run-off it hopes will bring peace after the worst sectarian violence since independence in 1960. "For the first time we have a true opportunity to turn our backs on war," said Paterne, a voter in his 40s, as he queued at a polling station in the capital Bangui. The two men in the close presidential race are both former prime ministers who have campaigned on promises to restore security and boost the economy in the mineral-rich but dirt-poor country.