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Obama: Unity crucial at G-20

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Renita Jablonski: Protesters in London dubbed today “Financial Fools Day.”

[Sound of protesters at the G-20 summit in London]

That’s what London’s financial center sounded like earlier this morning. Thousands of people chanted against capitalism and bailouts. One group smashed windows at a Royal Bank of Scotland building. You may recall RBS was essentially nationalized by the British government.

This was all going on as President Barack Obama met with foreign leaders gathered for the G-20 summit. The day started with the president making a call for unity, saying the U.S. can’t handle the fallout of the financial crisis alone. From London, Stephen Beard has more.

Stephen Beard: The president said the world is facing the most severe economic crisis in 60 years. He called on the G-20 to reject protectionism and work together.

The president played down reports of of deep divisions between the 20 leaders:

President Barack Obama: This meeting will reflect enormous consensus about the need to work in concert to deal with these problems. The separation between the various parties involved has been vastly overstated.

Obama said every country taking part in the summit had accepted the principle of stimulus packages. That, he said, was the crucial issue, not differences over the level of stimulus. And he denied European claims that the U.S. is softpeddling on the need for new financial regulations:

President Obama: Tim Geithner, who’s sitting here today, went before Congress and proposed as aggressive a set of regulatory measures as any that have emerged among G-20 members.

Nevertheless, French president Nicholas Sarkozy said this morning that France and Germany fear the summit won’t crack down on financial abuses. He’s threatening to walk out if the summit doesn’t come up with much tougher regulations.

In London, this is Stephen Beard for Marketplace.

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