Obama tells G20 that Europe can "break the fever"

The President sounded a confident note about the ability for European leaders to solve the debt crisis roiling the region.

Andres Stapff/AP
President Obama holds a news conference at the G20 summit in Los Cabos, Mexico on Tuesday.

President Barack Obama voiced confidence Tuesday in Europe's ability to "break the fever" of its raging debt crisis as he sought to calm both global financial markets and the election-year worries of voters at home.

Obama, speaking at the close of the Group of 20 economic summit, said Europe's leaders showed a "heightened sense of urgency" during two days of talks in this Mexican resort. The president maintained that Europe had the capacity to solve the crisis on its own, indicating the U.S., still battling its own economic woes, would not be offering any financial pledges to help its international partners.

"Even if they cannot achieve all of it in one fell swoop, I think if people have a sense of where they are going that can provide confidence and break the fever," he said.

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Still, Obama recognized the challenge European nations faced because each country has to separately approve any action to stabilize the fiscal union.

Mindful of his audience of voters in the U.S., Obama said: "The best thing the United States can do is to create jobs and growth in the short term even as we continue to put our fiscal house in order over the long term."

The president, waging a close re-election fight, conceded that he couldn't control the pace of action in Europe despite the repercussions the continent's debt crisis could have on the U.S. economy and his own prospects in November.

"All of these issues, economic issues, will potentially have some impact on the election," Obama said

Obama urged congressional lawmakers in the U.S. to focus on steps they could take to boost job creation and economic growth, pitching legislation he proposed months ago that has little chance of garnering Republican support in an election year.

"I've consistently believed that if we take the right policy steps, if we're doing the right thing, then the politics will follow and my mind hasn't changed on that," Obama said.

Much of Obama's time at the G-20 was devoted to the European fiscal crisis, though he did hold meetings on the sidelines of the international summit to tackle other pressing global concerns, most notably the continued violence in Syria.

Obama met separately with the leaders of Russia and China, two countries that have blocked U.S. efforts to take action against Syria at the United Nations. Obama said Tuesday that the two nations are "not aligned" with the U.S. and other countries on Syria but said both recognize the dangers of a civil war.

The European mess of high debt, high borrowing rates and high unemployment poses huge spillover risks to the American economy and Obama's political future.

The U.S. economy is in a tentative recovery amid a slump in hiring and indications that the housing market is healing. Those mixed signals have muddled Obama's re-election prospects as challenger Mitt Romney mounts a campaign singularly focused on the state of the U.S. economy.

All sides at the G-20 summit seemed intent on sending confident signals to jittery markets and unhappy electorates.

Underscoring the stakes, Obama broke from the main summit Tuesday for a brief meeting with leaders from Britain, Germany, Italy, France, Spain and the European Union.

Despite the words of unity, European leaders showed signs that they have heard enough about their troubles, particularly from Americans. Memories linger of the 2008 financial crash that was borne in the United States and destroyed jobs and wealth.

"The eurozone has a serious problem, but it is certainly not the only imbalance in the world economy," Italian Prime Minster Mario Monti said Tuesday. He said the United States' own financial problems were mentioned in G-20 talks "by almost everybody, including President Obama."

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso took an aggressive tone with reporters on Monday, also pointing some blame at North America and saying, "Frankly we are not coming here to receive lessons in terms of democracy."

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