Obama Strains to Drive Message, as Friction Builds at G20

President Obama is holding a solo press conference Thursday afternoon in London to shape the message coming out of the G20 summit, as he appears to be losing ground on economic policy among traditional allies. 

So far, the U.S. president has had no trouble holding the spotlight on his first trip overseas as commander-in-chief. 

But while he and first lady Michelle Obama's meeting with Queen Elizabeth II made headlines around the world, Obama appears to be struggling to hold the gavel and drive the policy debate. 

White House aides told FOX News the president is holding a solo press conference to drive his own message and give foreign reporters access -- which keeps Obama and his global policy platform visible around the world. The rest of the G20 nations are holding a separate news conference prior to the president's.

"I am absolutely confident that this meeting will reflect enormous consensus about the need to work in concert to deal with these problems," Obama said at the summit, as he and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown predicted Thursday's emergency G20 economic summit would produce a significant global deal to tackle the deepening worldwide recession. 

But others weren't so sure. 

The U.S. had already backed off its calls for countries to spend a specific percentage of GDP on stimulus ahead of the economic summit, as European leaders balked at the call. Instead, old European powers are now making demands of the U.S., with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel uniting to push Obama on international financial regulations. They suggested Obama's substance could end up playing second fiddle to his style by the time the meeting's over. 

Sarkozy, while saying he has "confidence" in Obama, still warned that France and Germany would reject "false compromises" and considered concrete steps on tax havens, hedge funds and ratings agencies crucial. 

Paris and Berlin want definitive agreements on a crackdown on tax havens and action on other regulatory issues, rather than simple commitments to reform. The summit is also expected to consider lightly regulated hedge funds and how to clear bank balance sheets of shaky securities. 

Sarkozy said that "without new regulation there will be no confidence. It's a major non-negotiable objective." 

Merkel said both she and Sarkozy had come to London "in a very constructive mood." But she said, "We do not want results that have no impact in practice." 

Even as France and Germany bristled, Obama made headway Wednesday in meeting with the leaders of China and Russia, even accepting invitations to visit both countries later in the year. 

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs downplayed the rift with Europe on NBC's "Today Show," and reacted to suggestions from Europe that the U.S. was to blame for the crisis.  

"Well, the president understands that we all bear some responsibility. But what's more important ... is not to worry about who to blame for what happened many months ago, but to work together to listen and to lead going forward to make sure that we get these economies moving again, that we get people back to work and put more money in their pockets. There's no real sense in playing the blame game," he said. 

Gibbs said "the majority of people, including Mr. Sarkozy, are focused less on the past and much more on the future." 

Obama has acknowledged that U.S. regulatory failures contributed to the crisis in the financial system, but urged a focus on solutions, saying "we can only meet this challenge together."

Global leaders made headway Thursday with possible deals to give more money to the International Monetary Fund, which the U.S. was advocating, and clamp down on tax havens and freewheeling hedge funds. 

A British official said the Group of 20 rich and developing countries would likely approve giving more than $500 billion to the IMF so it can increase its loans to governments struggling because of the financial crisis.  

Two other people close to the negotiations said France and Germany had persuaded the Group of 20 leaders to back tougher language in the final statement on stronger financial regulations to avoid a repeat of the current crisis. 

A draft communique, however, suggested that details still needed to be firmed up. Britain's Finance Secretary Stephen Timms said early discussions had been "lively," but added that countries would agree on sanctions against countries who refuse to sign up to new rules on regulating tax havens. 

Sarkozy and Merkel want the G-20 to publish a blacklist of tax havens and announce sanctions at the end of Thursday's meeting. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.