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Behind scenes at G20, leaders pressure Merkel to pull away from austerity plan

LOS CABOS, Mexico -- President Barack Obama expressed support for his European counterparts and their measures to manage the fiscal crisis as the G20 Summit in Los Cabos, Mexico wrapped up Tuesday, saying he believes they are "ready to do what is necessary to hold the Eurozone together."

Behind the scenes, however, one senior administration official said the focus of the summit was to convince German Chancellor Angela Merkel to pull away from an austerity plan and focus more on spending and creating jobs.


President Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese President Hu Jintao chat after arriving for the family photo of the G20 summit, at the convention center in Los Cabos, Mexico.

Another senior administration official was asked whether leaders "ganged up" on Merkel; that official replied, "I don’t think I’d describe it that way." But another official said world leaders were very blunt in their efforts to convince Merkel to sign on to the plan.

While the official declaration out of the G20 Summit pointed to a more integrated financial system and an agreement to help Greece stay in the Eurozone, an official says the group was closer to an agreement to create a fund to loan money to troubled countries.

There is no agreement, however, on how such an account would be funded.

Obama said he was "confident" that over the next several weeks, "Europe will paint a picture of where we need to go," but he acknowledged that the world's economy could affect his election prospects. He used the moment to admonish Congress for not acting on the jobs plan he announced last year.

Obama also used his time in Mexico to meet with President Vladimir Putin of Russia and President Hu Jintao of China, where the primary topic of discussion was the unraveling situation in Syria.

While Obama did say he believed both countries understood that civil war was in nobody's interest, it was clear that neither the Russian or Chinese leaders were willing to call for Syrian President Bashar al Assad to step down.

"I wouldn't suggest that at this point, the United States and the rest of the international community are aligned with Russia and China in their positions," the president said carefully.

The president also said he hopes there will be a formal political transition plan in place in Syria in coming weeks, but he was not sure whether Russia or China would sign on. One senior administration official said there was a glimmer of hope that Putin is now willing to consider scenarios where Assad is not in power.