G20 leaders dine together, across a great divide

April 2nd, 2009 - 11:13 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama London, April 2 (IANS) When it comes to solving the global economic crisis, Obama and Britain’s Brown are at philosophical odds with France’s Sarkozy and Germany’s Merkel. But host Brown predicts brandy and cigars soon.
They mingled cordially and dined on Scottish salmon, and not a single person stormed out of the dinner of world leaders at the British prime minister’s home late Wednesday, Los Angeles Times reported.

In fact, the place cards even seated US President Barack Obama next to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who just a few hours earlier had dissed the American plan to rescue the global economy.

So it was a fitting opening to the Group of 20 economic summit that formally began here. Everyone was polite and civil, even as disagreement among them simmers.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has threatened to walk out of the summit if his demands for global financial regulation aren’t met. And on Wednesday, Sarkozy joined Merkel in a public statement against the idea of more government spending to spur the economy, an important feature of the US plan.

The two leaders have increasingly coordinated their messages of greater financial regulation in recent days as a counterweight to a British and American call for more fiscal spending.

In fact, at joint news conference at a London hotel, they even looked like reverse images of each other, with Sarkozy dressed in a dark suit and white shirt and Merkel in a white suit and dark blouse. They said they would speak in one voice.

The flip side to the Merkel-Sarkozy show was the other dynamic duo of this week’s summit: Obama and his host and ally, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who held a news conference of their own Wednesday.

Brown praised the American leadership on regulating the financial system, on re-capitalising banks and restructuring the US banking system.

He said he thought that leaders were “within a few hours” of agreeing on a global plan for economic recovery and reform.

“Never before has the world come together in this way to deal with an economic crisis,” Brown said.

As for Sarkozy’s threat, Brown said he was sure that things would work out.

“I’m confident that President Sarkozy will not only be here for the first course of our dinner,” he said, “but will still be sitting as we complete our dinner this evening”.

Obama also downplayed the differences, calling them “vastly overstated”.

“So I know that when you’ve got a bunch of heads of state talking, it’s not visually that interesting,” Obama said. “You know, the communiques are written in sort of dry language, and so there’s a great desire to inject some conflict and some drama into the occasion.”

“But the truth of the matter is that I think there has been an extraordinary convergence,” Obama said.

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