* Obama repeats call for EU to act decisively on debt
* US ready to do its part but EU aid not discussed - Obama
* US and EU urge Iran to comply on its nuclear program
(Adds ambassadors' comments)
By Laura MacInnis
WASHINGTON, Nov 28 President Barack Obama
pressed European Union officials on Monday to act quickly and
decisively to resolve their sovereign debt crisis, which the
White House said was weighing on the U.S. economy.
After meeting European Council President Herman Van Rompuy
and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, Obama
said he was keen to see the euro zone crisis end.
"I communicated to them that the United States stands ready
to do our part to help them resolve this issue. This is of huge
importance to our economy," Obama, seated next to the EU
leaders, told reporters.
A possible step would be for Washington to support more aid
to Europe from the International Monetary Fund, where the
United States is the biggest shareholder.
But William Kennard, the U.S. envoy in Brussels, said there
was no discussion of the United States making any financial
obligations to help Europe or increasing its payments to the
IMF - moves bound to face stiff political opposition given
fiscal pressures gripping the U.S. Congress.
Rather, the Obama administration has focused on offering
advice on rescue programs and how to make tough political
decisions drawn from its experience during the U.S. financial
crisis of 2008.
The U.S.-EU summit furthered those discussions, Kennard
said, refusing to discuss any specifics.
"Ultimately, we believe that this is a problem that Europe
has to solve and has the capacity and the resources to solve
it," he said at a news conference.
Europe conveyed that the situation is difficult and leaders
are not complacent, the EU Ambassador to the United States Joao
Vale de Almeida said.
"Europe is committed. Europe is determined," he said,
adding that the Dec. 9 EU summit would be a "milestone."
EU leaders are expected to agree on steps toward fiscal
union, considered critical for a longer term solution to
Europe's debt crisis.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said the IMF already has
substantial resources and has a role to play in helping Europe
but also underscored the U.S. view that Europe has the capacity
to handle its own problems.
"The issue here is a European issue and Europe needs to
act," he said.
Obama has been in regular telephone contact with German
Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and
other European leaders as debt woes have piled up in Greece,
Italy and Spain, hurting stock markets and raising doubts about
U.S. exports and growth.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and top White House
advisers took part in Monday's closed-door talks, the latest in
a series of annual summits between American and EU leaders.
The meeting did not include Merkel, Sarkozy and other
European heads of state who will ultimately need to make tough
decisions to salvage the euro zone.
But Van Rompuy and Barroso wield influence as heads of key
EU institutions at the heart of efforts to address the crisis,
which has thrown the future of the 17-nation currency bloc into
doubt at a moment of weakness for the global economy.
Avoiding contagion from Europe is critical for Obama, a
Democrat whose re-election prospects next November hinge on his
ability to shield the U.S. economy from another downturn and
bring down the unemployment rate of 9 percent.
"If Europe is contracting or if Europe is having
difficulties, then it is much more difficult for us to create
good jobs at home," Obama said.
So far, U.S. exports have remained strong in spite of the
turmoil in Europe, rising in the first nine months of 2011 by
about 15 percent from the same period last year.
Exports to the EU account for about 2 percent of total U.S.
output, so a mild EU recession is expected to shave only about
one- or two-tenths of a percentage point from U.S. growth in
the first half of 2012, Wells Fargo estimates.
Van Rompuy said it was wrong to suggest Europe was the only
drag on the global economy and said it was important for other
economies to pitch in to boost growth.
In a joint statement after the meeting, the United States
and European Union said they agreed on the need to work
together with emerging economies to rebalance global growth and
for the United States to address its fiscal issues in the
They also said they were determined to see Iran comply with
its international obligations related to its nuclear program.
Van Rompuy said the European Union was preparing new
restrictive measures to further isolate Tehran.
The joint statement, issued hours after Brussels announced
new financial sanctions on Syria, also urged Damascus "to end
violence immediately" and permit a peaceful and democratic
transition of government.
Catherine Ashton, the EU's foreign policy chief, and U.S.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also took part in the talks
which lasted just over two hours.
(Additional reporting by David Lawder, Stella Dawson, Doug
Palmer, Steve Holland, Caren Bohan, Lesley Wroughton and Glenn
Somerville in Washington and Luke Baker in Brussels; Editing by
Paul Simao and John O'Callaghan)