Forget the economy, the big question Thursday at the G20 summit is: Where was Prime Minister Stephen Harper for the group photo?

Was he really, as he claims, being briefed by his officials on the draft G20 communique?

Or was he de-briefing himself "in the loo?" as first reported by the BBC.

Because Harper missed the group picture, the whole routine had to be restaged about an hour later.

For the second "family photo," both Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono were missing.

The official story, from the prime minister himself, is that he was busy talking to other people.

"In terms of (the photo op), I was detained in some consultations with officials," Harper said in a response to a question by CTV Ottawa Bureau Chief Robert Fife, during a closing news conference in London.

"I've been in enough of these to know there's always another photo op," he added with a grin.

By Thursday afternoon, however, the BBC had retracted its bathroom reports, according to Dimitri Soudas, a spokesman for the prime minister.

Still, earlier in the day, Harper's absence made headlines around the globe.

Guardian blogger and diplomatic editor Julian Borger used a Twitter post to quote "sources near bathroom" who said Canada's prime minister was in the bathroom at the time of the photo.

According to reports, when Harper returned for the second photo he was subject to ribbing by the other leaders.

"When they all gathered back one of the leaders said 'This is for you Stephen,'" Fife said. "Then in comes Barack Obama and he says 'Hey Steve, back for you,' and he goes up and shakes his hand.

"All of the leaders were having a good laugh at Mr. Harper's expense."

With files from The Canadian Press