Obama warns on debt at Merkel talks
US President Barack Obama on Tuesday warned Europe's debt crisis must not destabilize the global economy, as he laid on a lavish and warm White House welcome for German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Obama said he and Merkel had extensive talks about the plight of debt-stricken Greece, which needs a second huge financial bailout, despite some reluctance from some eurozone members to stump up fresh funds.
"I very much appreciated the chancellor's views on the financial situation in Europe, which we agree cannot be allowed to put the global economic recovery at risk," Obama said in a joint press conference with Merkel.
Obama said he was confident Europe would figure out a way to support Greece, added that Washington would do what it could to help, and noted the "tough" domestic politics faced by leaders organizing bailouts for other countries.
Merkel's visit came as Obama seeks to correct an impression that his focus on rising powers like India and China means a downgrade for the transatlantic alliance and as he faces rising political heat over the slow recovery.
Calling one another "Dear Barack" and "Angela" the two leaders praised one another's courage and the president was to confer the highest US civilian honor on his guest, in an apparent bid to scotch rumors their relationship is cool.
At one point of their joint press conference, the leaders appeared to share a resigned shrug as a journalist asked about frictions between them on Libya and whether they felt the need to "reset" their relationship.
Obama said that Merkel was one of his closest partners on the world stage and that Germany was one of America's most important allies on issues including Afghanistan, the Middle East, the Arab Spring, NATO and the world economy.
"I very much compliment her on the courage with which she approaches some of these very difficult political issues, at some significant political costs to herself," he said.
"She's not finished yet -- she's got a lot more work to do," Obama said, in an endorsement of a leader who has gone through a rough political patch at home.
Despite the warmth, Merkel admitted that she and Obama did not always see eye-to-eye, despite broad areas of agreement.
"Sometimes there may be differences of opinion in such a friendship and partnership," she said.
Germany caused frowns in Washington by abstaining in a UN Security Council vote that endorsed NATO action against Moamer Kadhafi's forces in Libya -- though both Obama and Merkel agreed Tuesday the strongman would soon be gone.
The Merkel government has also been outspoken about some of the monetary and fiscal measures the US government and Federal Reserve have taken to revive the US economy after the worst crisis since the 1930s.
Merkel also joked that Berlin, which Obama has not yet visited as president, despite several trips to Germany, was always ready to welcome him.
"I can promise that the Brandenburg Gate will still be there," Merkel joked, in a reference to press reports that she blocked then Senator Obama from using the landmark as a backdrop to a speech during his 2008 White House campaign.
Merkel had earlier rolled up to the South Portico of the White House in a limousine and was welcomed by Obama and wife Michelle before a 19-gun military salute and the playing of the German and US national anthems.
The chancellor, in a lime green jacket and black trousers, reviewed an honor guard with Obama before greeting a line of cheering schoolchildren waving American and German flags on the South Lawn of the White House.
"At a time when some have asked whether the rise of new global powers means the decline of others, this visit reaffirms an enduring truth," Obama said.
"Our alliances with nations like Germany are more important than ever. Indeed, they're indispensable to global security and prosperity."
The German chancellor said that she was overwhelmed by the "very moving" and warm welcome.
Obama had greeted Merkel privately on Monday night and took her out to a private dinner in the upscale Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, and is rolling out all the pageantry the United States can muster.
At a state dinner later Tuesday, he will also present Merkel with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, another rare honor.
© 2011 AFP