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November 02, 2011

G20 Hopes to Move Beyond Greek Crisis

by Kent Klein

After the Greek political crisis dominated the first day of the G20 economic summit, the second and final day is expected to focus largely on the health of the global economy.  Large industrial countries gathered in Cannes expressed relief at Greece's decision to scrap a referendum on a European bailout plan.

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou announced Thursday he would not follow through on his proposal to ask voters whether they would approve Europe's plan to rescue Greece's economy.

If the deal had been voted down, Greece might have been forced out of the 17-nation euro bloc, and the country could have defaulted on its debts to banks.  The Papandreou government could have fallen as well.

Now the G20 leaders will focus on the original intent of the Cannes summit -strengthening the global economy.  The summit host, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, said extra meetings would be held late Thursday to look for solutions to Europe's debt crisis.

Shortly after he arrived in France, President Barack Obama held private meetings with Mr. Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who led the effort to keep Greece's debt from spreading through Europe.

After meeting with his French counterpart, Mr. Obama said his top priority for the summit was to help Europe push ahead with its recent deal to help Greece.

“The most important aspect of our task over the next two days is to resolve the financial crisis here in Europe," said President Obama. "President Sarkozy has shown extraordinary leadership on this issue.  I agree with him that the EU has made some important steps towards a comprehensive solution.”

Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser to President Obama, told reporters the goal is a cohesive plan for putting the bailout into practice.

“While there has been substantial progress, both he and, I think, Europe's leaders would acknowledge that more work needs to be done, because this needs to be implemented in a decisive way, in a clear way, in order to move beyond the current situation of crisis," said Rhodes.

G20 leaders will hold more meetings Friday on Europe's economy and the global economy. 
Before returning to Washington, Mr. Obama will join Mr. Sarkozy in honoring the U.S.-French alliance and military members who took part in the French-led mission in Libya.

“Finally, I am looking forward to joining Nicolas and service members from both of our countries tomorrow, to celebrate the alliance between our two countries, which spans more than 200 years, from Yorktown to Libya," said Obama.

Mr. Obama will also meet one-on-one with the President of Argentina, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.