Obama backs Sarkozy efforts

US president gives praise for efforts to stabilise euro as Greek prime minister calls off referendum

AMERICAN president Barack Obama has backed President Sarkozy in his efforts to stabilise the euro and resolve the crisis in debt-ridden Europe which overshadowed the opening of the G20 summit in Cannes.

Obama had his first meeting of the summit with Sarkozy and praised his "impressive leadership", adding: "With him, the European Union has taken important steps towards a global solution. We have a shared view on the way to turn the world back to a strategy of growth and stability.

"But, here at the G20, we are going to have to flesh out details about how the plan will be fully and decisively implemented."

Greek prime minister George Papandreou, who disrupted the initial timetable for the G20 with his call for a referendum on the Franco-German plan to refinance his country's debt, has called off the vote after he won some backing from opposition leaders in Athens on plans for a coalition government. He faces a no-confidence vote in parliament today.

Sarkozy said later that he and Obama had found "common ground" over his hopes to impose a new international financial transactions tax. So far the US has not come out in support of the plan, but has not rejected it.

Obama, who is due to appear with Sarkozy on French television tonight, on TF1 and Fr2 at 20.00, congratulated the president and wife Carla on the birth of baby Giulia, and said: "Now we share our biggest challenge, to be the fathers of our daughters." He joked: "I'm confident Giulia inherited her mother's looks, rather than her father's."

Tonight's TV interview is an unprecedented appearance for the two leaders - although both sides said the other had requested the joint interview.