WHITE HOUSE - President Barack Obama says Europe's debt crisis poses risks for the U.S. economy and is calling on European leaders to ensure growth while locking in reforms and dealing with debt and deficits.
Addressing a White House news conference, Obama said Europe needs to avoid what he called a "downward spiral" involving too much austerity too quickly that weakens demand and increases unemployment.
Noting nervousness in markets affecting the ability of eurozone countries to borrow, the president called challenges facing Europe "solvable."
“As some countries have discovered, it is a lot harder to rein in deficits and debt if your economy is not growing," he said. "So it is a positive thing that the conversation has moved in that direction, and leaders like Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande are working to put in place a growth agenda alongside responsible fiscal plans.”
Obama warned Europe against simply cutting spending while unemployment increases and consumer spending goes down.
He pointed again to potential negative impacts on the U.S. economy, and he said it would be in everybody's interest for Greece to remain inside the eurozone.
Obama also pressed Congress -- specifically opposition Republicans -- to pass key elements of a jobs bill he sent to Capitol Hill last year. He said lawmakers would have to explain to Americans if they fail to act on proposals to help the economy even in an election year.
Speaking in Iowa on Friday, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney attacked Obama's "to do list" for Congress, accusing the president of failing to lead a real economic recovery.
"I won't have to have a long to-do list in a drawer in the White House," said Romney. "My to-do list is written on my heart and the first three entries are these: jobs, jobs and jobs. I'm going to go to work to get America working again."
Addresses data leaks
President Obama also commented on the controversy over what lawmakers on congressional committees describe as serious leaks of classified and sensitive information about U.S. counter-terrorism operations.
Obama declined to comment on details of what he said "are supposed to be classified items." Pledging thorough investigations, he strongly denied suggestions that the White House deliberately leaked information to help his re-election chances.
"The notion that my White House would purposely release classified national security information is offensive," he said. "It is wrong, and people, I think, need to have a better sense of how I approach this office and how the people here around me approach this office."
Obama added that intelligence matters involve the safety and security of Americans, military personnel, and U.S. allies, saying "we don't play with that." Whenever classified information is made public, he said, "we try to find out where that came from."
Lawmakers on the House and Senate intelligence committees have vowed thorough investigations into leaks, and legislation to deal with the problem.