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But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, was less committal about the specifics.

“We must work with Mexico to curtail the violence and drug trafficking on America’s southern border, and must protect Americans’ Second Amendment rights,” Mr. Reid said. “I look forward to working with the president to ensure we do both in a responsible way.”

Mr. Obama repeated the statistic that 90 percent of illegal firearms used in crimes come from the U.S., and Mr. Calderon backed him.

But gun-rights groups have challenged the number, and Fox News said the statistic is distorted because it covers only a subset of the weapons the Mexican government seizes.

In its report, Fox News said only about 17 percent of the 29,000 guns recovered at Mexican crime scenes in 2007 and 2008 could be positively traced to the U.S. Some couldn’t be traced at all and others were never submitted to U.S. officials for tracing because they clearly came from somewhere else.

It’s also unclear how much effect stopping the U.S. flow would have.

“That to some degree is a red herring because while it’s convenient for the cartels to acquire weapons in the United States, the cartels have so much money they can go into the open arms market and buy weapons. Central America, for example, is chockablock with sophisticated weapons left over from the 1980s,” said George Grayson, a professor at the College of William & Mary and a Mexico researcher.

“It’s a good reason to bash the U.S. because it is unfortunate that the arms are flowing southward, but if you cut off completely that flow of arms, it would be a thorn in the side, but not a dagger in the heart to the cartels,” he said.

On another thorny issue, a Mexican reporter asked Mr. Obama about his support in 2006 for the Secure Fence Act, which called for building fencing along 700 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border. Mr. Obama pointed out that he has also voted for two bills that would have legalized illegal immigrants.

He did not give a timetable but repeated his goal of legalizing illegal immigrants and giving many of them a path to citizenship if they pay a penalty.

“My whole goal is to remove the politics of this and take a very practical, common-sense approach that benefits people on both sides of the border,” he said.

Ahead of this weekend’s Summit of the Americas, Mr. Obama submitted an op-ed in a dozen papers across Latin America calling on the region to move beyond debates over capitalism versus socialism, and defended his decision to curtail but not lift the U.S. trade and travel embargo to Cuba.

“Each of our countries has pursued its own democratic journey, but we must be joined together in our commitment to liberty, equality, and human rights,” Mr. Obama said in the op-ed.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said there is no specific plan to meet at the summit one-on-one with Venezuela President Hugo Chavez, though he would not rule out a conversation between the two men if Mr. Chavez pulled Mr. Obama aside in a group meeting.

White House officials said Mr. Obama also placed a call Thursday to Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in which the American president tried to head off having the summit get bogged down on non-central issues.

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