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Leaders to face Europe crises at G-8 summit

One of Obama's closest aides, National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, said the United States welcomed the evolving debate in Europe about the “imperative for jobs and growth,” but he said the president's intention was not to drive a wedge between Europe's two biggest economies, Germany and France.

“I don't think that the nature of these conversations are going to be anything like taking one side or the other,” he told reporters on Thursday.

“The president looks forward to leading a discussion among the leaders about the imperative of having a comprehensive approach to manage the crisis and get on a sustainable path towards recovery in Europe.”

Limited Power

Obama, a Democrat, has pitched a similarly “balanced” approach combining short-term stimulus and longer-term cuts to heal the U.S. economy and stoke hiring that has not recovered from the financial crisis.

His presumed White House opponent, Republican Mitt Romney, has made reducing the U.S. debt load, which has escalated during Obama's tenure, one of his key campaign messages.

“A balanced approach that includes not just austerity but growth and job creation is the right approach,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Thursday, explaining Obama's message to the G8.

Bruce Jones of the Brookings Institution said because Obama's re-election prospects hinge so directly on the health of the American economy, he has a huge interest in getting Europe on a healthy growth track. “Even if he wasn't in an election season, any president of the United States has a lot riding on the Europeans getting this right,” he said.

Cameron, worried about the impact of the eurozone crisis on a weak British economy, will call for a “strong and united commitment to securing the economic recovery and to support job creation,” his aide said.

Also on the summit agenda will be the price of oil and policy options to address it, although Brent crude hit a 2012 low on Friday.

“I'm sure that the leaders will discuss the range of options that they might have before them,” Donilon said.

Economic policy outcomes are not expected from the closed-door talks at Camp David, a rustic presidential escape about two hours from Washington that Obama has visited far less frequently than his predecessor George W. Bush.

The White House moved the summit to the Maryland retreat from Chicago in part to give the meeting a more informal flavor, as well as to escape the possibility of protests when Russian President Vladimir Putin was slated to attend.

His prime minister, Dmitri Medvedev, will be there instead, along with G8 first-timers Hollande and Yoshihiko Noda of Japan. Monti, Cameron, Harper, Merkel and Obama complete the line-up of leaders and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy will also attend.

Van Rompuy held a conference call with the European attendees on Thursday to “coordinate positions.”

The White House said each leader would get their own cabin, albeit of different sizes. It will be the largest international summit ever held at Camp David, which was built in the 1930s and is best known as the site of past Middle East peace talks. Conley of CSIS acknowledged Obama's power to exert influence over Europe over weekend was “somewhat limited.”

“Nevertheless, I think the president can play a role of listening, helping leaders find common ground,” she said. “We are going to have to watch how this plays out with the frustration in recognizing that it will have a profound impact for the global economy and for the U.S. economy.”

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Oxfam activists wearing masks depicting G-8 world leaders participate in a demonstration outside the White House in Washington, Thursday, May 17. U.S. President Barack Obama will welcome G-8 leaders to his presidential retreat at Camp David, Maryland. (AP)

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