Obama gets limelight after day of crisis watching

By Jim Kuhnhenn

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Nov. 4 2011 12:00 a.m. MDT

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, right, and his U.S counterpart Barack Obama, hold a joint press conference, Thursday Nov.3, 2011 ahead of the start of the G20 Summit.

Lionel Bonaventure, Pool, Associated Press

CANNES, France — After a day of economic summitry focused on Europe, President Barack Obama was capturing some of the limelight for himself.

Obama was holding a news conference Friday at the conclusion of a two-day meeting of the 20 top industrialized and developing economies. He also was taping a joint French television interview with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the summit host.

Obama was spending much of the day huddled behind closed doors with the assembled world leaders. He also met one-on-one with Argentine President Cristina Fernandez, telling reporters beforehand that they would discuss "how we can set an agenda that focuses on increasing prosperity and employment and opportunity for people throughout the Americas."

The continuing European debt crisis, fueled by the threat of a Greek default, dominated Thursday's Group of 20 meetings.

Obama met separately with Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, key architects of a bailout plan for Greece. The three also met as a group later Thursday with other European leaders.

A day that began with worries about the Greek prime minister's call for a public vote on the bailout plan ended with word from Athens that the referendum had been scrapped. But Prime Minister George Papandreou still faced a difficult confidence vote on Friday.

At the summit, Obama is pushing an overarching theme of economic stability and job growth. But his message was being challenged by the troubles of the euro, difficulties that could spread across all of Europe and beyond, threatening the U.S. as well.

With the U.S. economy still weak but showing new signs of upward momentum, any global economic setback could be disastrous. Obama's own political hopes for winning a second term next year rest on the economy climbing out of its stall. A new U.S. jobs report for October released Friday showed a fourth straight month of modest hiring and a dip in the unemployment rate from 9.1 percent to 9 percent, although hiring slowed a bit.

Overcast skies and occasional rain dampened the summit mood and took some of the glamour out of this chic resort on the French Riviera, with its trendy shops, marinas and ocean view hotels. Threatening skies served as a metaphor for the menacing troubles facing the eurozone.

Still, Obama found time for lighthearted asides. "I was hoping to come and see some movies," he said as he met with Sarkozy, a reference to the famous Cannes Film Festival that attracts a different, red-carpet crowd each May.

He also complimented Sarkozy on the recent birth of his daughter, Giulia, saying he was confident the child had inherited her mother's good looks rather than her father's. Sarkozy's wife, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, is a former model

A U.S. official said Sarkozy's office had requested the unusual joint television interview with Obama.

Deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said the appearance underscored the close partnership and friendship the two presidents have developed over the past three years.

Obama on Thursday described Sarkozy as "my excellent friend." Sarkozy, in turn, said he was delighted by the opportunity for the joint interview because Obama "is much loved and liked here in France."

For Sarkozy, a high-profile appearance with someone as popular as Obama is in France, can have political benefits. He also faces a tough re-election bid next year.

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