G20 leaders agree to boost IMF, but not how

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks with U.S. President Barack Obama during a roundtable meeting at the G20 summit in Cannes, France Friday, Nov. 4, 2011.
AP Photo/Michel Euler

Last Updated 11:00 a.m. ET

CANNES, France - President Barack Obama said that leaders at the G20 summit meeting of developed and emerging economies have made progress dealing with the eurozone debt crisis, to put "economic recoveries on a firmer footing."

"Put simply, the world faces challenges that put our economic recovery at risk," Mr. Obama said in a news conference Friday morning. He said Europe has rallied around a plan to prevent its continental debt crisis, stemming from a crisis in Greece, from spreading further and potentially dealing another blow to the U.S. economy.

Leaders of the world's 20 most powerful economies acknowledged the need to boost the International Monetary Fund, so that it can help stem the European debt crisis, though they failed to agree on how to do so.

The leaders struggled to reach concrete resolutions at their summit in the French resort of Cannes that has focused on Greece's political turmoil and worries about Italy that are threatening the world economy.

"It's important that the IMF sees its resources reinforced," European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso told reporters.

He said that Italy had also asked the IMF for help monitoring its budgetary and structural reforms. Doubts have grown over whether Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi will have the political strength to implement promised reform measures meant to revive the country's lackluster economy and bring down its massive debt.

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Leaders of the world's biggest economies were focusing on strengthening the IMF as they scrambled for ways to help Europe contain its raging debt crisis without worsening their own money troubles. European and non-European countries disagree about how to better use the IMF — the institution that was set up as the lender of last resort for struggling governments after World War II — to help.

"There is a broad view amongst G-20 leaders that there does need to be additional IMF resourcing," Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said Thursday night. "Leaders recognize that it is an appropriate move ... so people could be reassured."

The United States, however, maintained its position that the IMF should use its existing resources and leverage them for best use, according to Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser. The U.S. is the fund's largest stakeholder.

CBS News chief White House correspondent Norah O'Donnell said President Obama's ability to offer anything but support and guidance in Cannes is down to the economic struggles we have at home.

"The president can only offer words and talk and consultations, not a bailout," O'Donnell said Friday on "The Early Show."

"I think the point that the White House officials make is that they (European leaders) have got to do this sooner rather than later, to contain a contagion that could spread to the rest of the world," adds O'Donnell, who is in Cannes with the president.

With their own finances already stretched from bailing out Greece, Ireland and Portugal — and traditional allies like the United States wrestling with their own problems — eurozone countries are looking to the IMF to use its resources and rescue experience to help prevent the debt crisis from spreading to large economies like Italy and Spain.

But within the IMF, the powers have shifted.

Until two years ago, the IMF — dominated by the traditional powers in Europe and the U.S. — mostly applied the painful adjustment programs that are attached to its financial lifelines to poor and emerging economies in Asia, Latin America and Africa.

Now, it's growing powers like China, Brazil and South Africa that have to decide whether helping Europe is a worthy investment.