WASHINGTON - President Obama suggested that European austerity should be tempered with efforts to stimulate growth, as the eight leaders of the world's largest economies gathered at Camp David for a summit that was also expected to touch on Iran's nuclear ambitions and the ongoing bloodshed in Syria.
The economy is at the top of the agenda today and German Chancellor Angela Merkel is expected to be front and center as Obama pushes her to focus more on growth and less on austerity.
"We are very committed to making sure growth and stability and fiscal consolidation is something that all of us are trying to achieve," Obama said.
Today's focus on the Eurozone comes on the heels of elections in France and Greece that ushered in new leaders who are focused on growth, a blatant rejection of the austerity model championed by Germany.
The second day of the G-8 summit kicked off Saturday morning after a cozy slumber party at Camp David, with Obama formally thanking the leaders for making the trip to his country home in Maryland's Catoctin Mountains for the meeting.
Seated around a wooden table in a paneled room so small that Obama quipped that press photographers were only welcome "as long as [they] don't break anything," he rattled off the major issues of the summit, beginning with Iran.
"I think all of us agree that Iran has the right to peaceful nuclear power, but that its continuing violations of international rules and norms and its inability thus far to convince the world community that it is not pursuing the weaponization of nuclear power is something of grave concern to all of us," Obama said. "And our hope is, is that we can resolve this issue in a peaceful fashion that respects Iran's sovereignty and its rights in the international community, but also recognizes its responsibilities."
The United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China are slated to meet with Iranian leaders Wednesday in Baghdad in the next round of nuclear negotiations.
The president also expressed his concern for the continuing violence in Syria, but reiterated his support for the six-point peace plan negotiated by former U.S. Secretary General Kofi Annan.
"We're supportive of the Annan plan and agree that the Annan plan should be fully implemented and a political process has to move forward in a more timely fashion to resolve that issue," Obama said.
The full complement 300 unarmed U.N. monitors are expected to arrive in Syria by the end of May, though violence continues nearly a month after the Syrian government ostensibly accepted the plan.
North Korea and Burma were also mentioned this morning and the president suggested that Afghanistan will be the hot-button issue of this week's NATO Summit in Chicago.
"We want to make sure that we recognize the need for Afghanistan to sustain a development plan," he said.
The leaders arrived last night for a welcome dinner and Obama called the discussions thus far "very fruitful."
After today's first two working sessions, the eight leaders gathered outside for the G-8 family photo, that awkward, annual ritual.
In Washington, first lady Michelle Obama will host the G-8 spouses - and French President Francois Hollande's girlfriend - at the White House for a tour and "intimate lunch" catered by famed celebrity chef Jose Andres.