Obama set to host world leaders

Obama set to host world leaders

More than two dozen world leaders will join President Barack Obama in an extraordinary weekend of back-to-back summits to tackle Europe's mounting economic woes and solidify plans for winding down the decade-long war in Afghanistan.

The Group of Eight economic summit and the national security-focused Nato meeting will be infused with politics from every angle.

For Mr Obama, the summits are a unique election-year opportunity to show leadership on the world stage without having to leave the US.

But with some new faces around the conference tables, Mr Obama and the other leaders will be confronted by the stark reminder of the political turmoil from Asia to Europe that cost several of their old counterparts their jobs.

Since late 2011, public frustration with Europe's debt crisis has led to the ousting of leaders in Italy, Spain, Greece and most recently, France. Two other members of the G8, Britain and Japan, have had leadership shake-ups since Obama took office.

Mr Obama is fighting for his own job in a campaign expected to hinge on the economy.

He has had the good fortune of being able to hold both summits this year in the US, allowing him to tailor the meetings around his election-year messages of expanding the economy, creating jobs and ending the war

The summit locations rotate annually for each organisation.

Leaders from the world's eight leading industrialised nations arrive in the Washington area tomorrow for meetings at Camp David, the wooded presidential retreat in Maryland's Catoctin Mountains.

Immediately following the G8 summit, Mr Obama and most of the other leaders will fly to Chicago on Saturday to join other heads of state from Nato.

Mr Obama originally planned both meetings for Chicago, his hometown. But the White House abruptly scrapped those plans in March, announcing with little explanation that the G8 would shift to Camp David.

It was an unexpected move from Mr Obama, who rarely spends time at Camp David and has never hosted a world leader there, unlike many of his predecessors.

The White House said that location would lend itself to more intimate talks. It also will keep them far from the protests that usually flare on the summit fringes.

But US and other diplomats said a major reason for the switch was to appear welcoming to Vladimir Putin, who recently reclaimed the presidency in Russia.

Mr Putin planned to skip Nato because of his staunch opposition to the alliance's planned missile defence shield, and separating the two meetings was seen as a way to give Mr Putin cover to slip away less awkwardly.

Yet in a move widely perceived as a snub, Mr Putin told Mr Obama last week that he was skipping the G8 as well in order to stay in Russia and focus on forming his government.

Russia's former president and current prime minister, Dmitry Medvedev, will attend the G8 sessions, which also include the US, Japan, Britain, France, Italy and Canada.

White House officials insisted Mr Putin's presence was not a factor in their decision to move the G8 summit.


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