Obama, German leader optimistic for climate bill

Shortly before the House is set to vote on President Obama's energy bill, the president and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Friday they are hopeful the climate change legislation will pass.

Obama, who acknowledged Thursday that he expects a close vote, said the U.S. has been behind Europe in combating climate change.

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"I'll be the first to acknowledge that for the last several years, the United States has not been where it needs to be," Obama said.

The president, joined by Merkel in the East Room of the White House, said he was very "blunt and frank" with Merkel that even if the bill passes, the U.S. is "still developing the framework" to become a global leader on the issue.

"I think we all recognize that there's going to be more to do," he said.

Merkel said she sees a "sea change" in how the U.S. views its role in battling climate change, noting that the country is on the verge of passing legislation she "would not have thought possible a year ago."

"I hope you will come to good results when the vote is taken," Merkel said.

The two leaders also presented a unified front on the unrest in Iran, condemning the violence against protesters there following Iran's disputed presidential election.

"The violence perpetrated against them is outrageous," Obama said.

The president was asked by a reporter at the press conference if he would apologize to Iran for interference as Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said recently that he should. Ahmadinejad compared Obama unfavorably to former President George W. Bush.

"I don't take Mr. Ahmadinejad's statements seriously about apologies," Obama said, smiling.

Obama said the U.S. "has gone out of its way not to interfere," and he suggests the Iranian president pay more attention to "the obligations he has to his own people."

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The president acknowledged for the first time that there is "no doubt" that what is happening in Iran will affect his pledge to have direct talks with the country's leadership about its nuclear program, but he said it is too early to say what that effect will be.

"We are still waiting to see how the situation in Iran plays itself out," Obama said.

On the sticky situation of closing the detainee facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Obama said he has not asked for nor received a commitment from Merkel that Germany would take any of the detainees.

The president conceded that it is "politically difficult" for some European leaders to lend a hand on the matter, but he said he will be "looking for help from our friends and allies."

Merkel said Germany will not "shirk our responsibilities" when it comes to closing the facility, but both she and Obama said the discussions are still in the preliminary stages.

"We have seen a positive response from countries across Europe in a general sense and a wanting to help," Obama said.