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G8, G20 Leaders Confront Range of Issues Prior to Summit

The G8 and G20 summits in Canada later this week have been preceded by maneuvering by some member nations on key economic issues. Steps announced by some in advance of the discussions have added to speculation about the outcome of the summits being held in and near the Canadian city of Toronto.

In his letter to G20 leaders last week, President Obama attempted to steer the summit in a direction his administration favors. He called on member countries not to weaken global economic recovery by focusing too much on debt reduction.

That brought some significant push back, particularly from German chancellor Angela Merkel, who said deficit reduction should be a central focus of the G8 and G20. Financial experts said her prediction of difficult discussions on the question of spending, highlights a key divide going into the summit.

Germany is a member of the G8, the group of the world's wealthiest industrialized nations, with the United States, Canada, Britain, France, Italy, Russia, and Japan. Taking place before the G20, the G8 gathering will be President Obama's first stop on Friday.

In a move announced well in advance of both summits, Germany, Britain and France also rolled out a plan for a new bank charge that would help meet costs of dealing with financial crisis.

This issue has led to tensions within the G20. Experts say it underscores another area of disagreement as leaders decide how to move forward with steps to prevent a repeat of the global financial collapse.

China's decision ahead of the G20 summit to allow its currency to appreciate against the U.S. dollar removed a key sore point for the U.S., Canada and others upset over Beijing's monetary policies.

Declining to speculate on specific topics President Obama will discuss with China's President Hu Jintao on currency issues, White House Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton made clear that G20 members are waiting to see how Beijing continues to implement the currency adjustment in coming months.

"In terms of the broader discussions they will be having about job growth, financial regulatory reforms that need to be put in place and have been put in place, and how we get on a path of a durable global economic recovery, currency will certainly be part of that discussion," Burton said.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper matched the initial White House reaction, saying nations will press Beijing to keep to its pledge on the currency question.

Against the background of discussions on the global financial situation, G8/G20 leaders will also be grappling with how to respond to key global tension spots, including the Korean peninsula, and Iran's defiance of international will over its uranium enrichment.

Attending the G8 as an observer, China joined Russia in supporting a U.N. Security Council resolution imposing a fourth round of international sanctions on Iran.

The European Union added significant trade penalties, and Canada this week announced measures that bring it in line with the U.N. sanctions resolution.

President Obama goes to Canada strengthened by U.S. lawmaker's agreement on a final version of legislation targeting Iran's financial and petroleum sectors. A vote on a final bill, which has broad bipartisan support, is expected after the G8 and G20 summits.

Iran and global financial issues will be topics when President Obama meets with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at the White House, before the two men attend the G8 and G20 summits.

Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications points to Russian cooperation on Iran and North Korea, and says the visit reflects a strong relationship the two men have built.

"This is a relationship that has worked, this is a relationship that has achieved real results," he said. "And I think that the president believes that is in large part [due] to the positive relationship he has forged with President Medvedev."

G8 and G20 nations face criticism going into the summits over their efficiency in fulfilling past commitments on things like financial contributions for HIV/AIDS prevention in Africa, and aid to the poor.

Various groups will be protesting G8 and G20 policies in demonstrations this week and into the weekend. More than 5,000 Canadian police and other security forces have been deployed at the G8 summit site, and in Toronto the site of the G20