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Obama plays down G20 splits, seeks consensus - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Britain's Prime Minister Gordon Brown, right, and U.S. President Barack Obama walk away from 10 Downing Street to give a news conference at the Foreign Office in London, April 1, 2009 (AP)

Britain’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown, right, and U.S. President Barack Obama walk away from 10 Downing Street to give a news conference at the Foreign Office in London, April 1, 2009 (AP)

LONDON, (Reuters) – U.S. President Barack Obama urged the world’s top economies on Wednesday to set aside their differences to tackle the global crisis, pledging that Washington would listen as well as lead.

“I know that G20 nations are appropriately pursuing their own approaches…We’re not going to agree on every point,” Obama told reporters in London on the eve of a summit to chart a path out of global recession.

“I came here to put forward ideas but I also came here to listen, not to lecture. Having said that, we must not miss an opportunity to lead, to confront a crisis that knows no borders.”

Obama, on his first appearance on the international stage since taking office in January, is under pressure to show that the country where the global crisis began can lead the way out.

“I am absolutely confident that this meeting will reflect enormous consensus about the need to work in concert to deal with these problems,” he told a joint news conference with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Obama spoke hours after French President Nicolas Sarkozy said neither France nor Germany was satisfied with proposals currently on the table and declared that he would reject “false compromises” at the summit.

Washington, which is pushing through an economic stimulus package worth $787 billion or about 5.5 percent of Gross Domestic Product for 2009-10, is pushing hard for other governments to pump in more money too.

But France and Germany say they do not want this to distract from the need to regulate and rein in financial market excess.

Obama said differences between the various countries had been “vastly overstated”.

“The core notion that government has to take some steps to deal with a contracting global market place, and that we should be promoting growth, that’s not in dispute,” he said.

The idea that some parties were pushing for greater financial regulation and others resisting such a move was also belied by the facts, he said. And there was “complete concurrence” that emerging economies needed more resources to help them weather the storm.

“There’s a great desire to inject some conflict and some drama into the occasion, but the truth of the matter is I think there’s been an extraordinary convergence and I’m extremely confident the United States, as a peer of these other countries, will help to lead us through this very difficult time.”

Obama said all parties had a responsibility to act with urgency and to reject protectionism. “People are losing their homes, losing their businesses…People around the world who were already desperate before the crisis may find themselves even more desperate afterwards,” he said.

“Make no mistake, we are facing the most severe economic crisis since World War Two.”

US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton (L) and British Foreign Secretary David Miliband make their way up a staircase to a joint press conference by US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown (not pictured) on April 1, 2009 (AFP)

US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton (L) and British Foreign Secretary David Miliband make their way up a staircase to a joint press conference by US President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown (not pictured) on April 1, 2009 (AFP)

King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia is greeted by Saudi Ambassador to the UK Prince Mohammed Bin Nawaf, upon his arrival to London for the G20 Summit, 31 March 2009, Photo by Hatim Oweida

King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia is greeted by Saudi Ambassador to the UK Prince Mohammed Bin Nawaf, upon his arrival to London for the G20 Summit, 31 March 2009, Photo by Hatim Oweida

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat

Asharq Al-Awsat is the world’s premier pan-Arab daily newspaper, printed simultaneously each day on four continents in 14 cities. Launched in London in 1978, Asharq Al-Awsat has established itself as the decisive publication on pan-Arab and international affairs, offering its readers in-depth analysis and exclusive editorials, as well as the most comprehensive coverage of the entire Arab world.

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