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G8 Leaders Ready to Debate Politics of Finance

Police patrol in front of the Deauville Congress Center, May 22, 2011
Police patrol in front of the Deauville Congress Center, May 22, 2011
Lisa Bryant

The world economy, nuclear safety, the Arab Spring and African development will be on the agenda in Deauville, France, where leaders of the Group of Eight leading economies gather Thursday and Friday.

Along with the official menu of topics, the one not listed on the Group of Eight agenda may likely dominate discussions by world leaders who gather in Deauville; selecting the next International Monetary Fund chief.

European leaders are backing French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde, to replace fellow Frenchman Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who resigned as IMF chief earlier this month after being charged with sexual assault.  The post has a traditionally gone to a European.  But emerging economies argue it should be open to their candidates.

Watch a related report by Mil Arcega

The director of the Paris office of the European Council on Foreign Relations, Thomas Klau, says a critical test will be whether other G8 members, notably the United States, rally behind Lagarde in Deauville.

"It would be very interesting of course if the Americans ... if Barack Obama or members of his entourage ... signaled that they were happy with a European and indeed a Lagarde candidacy. That would more or less clinch the deal for her," Klau said.

The wave of popular uprisings in the Arab world is another hot topic.  The prime ministers of Tunisia and Egypt are expected at the G8 to lobby for massive investment and aid.  Washington has already promised billions of dollars in assistance to both countries.

Leaders are also likely to discuss Libya, where NATO is waging a military campaign against the Gadhafi regime.

"There's been considerable concern in Paris and other capitals about the military development in Libya and about the risk of a lasting stalemate and indeed a possible de-facto partition of the country.  And inevitably this is something the leaders are going to discuss," Klau said.

The G8 has its share of critics.  Leading up to the summit, thousands of anti-globalization activists protested in the northern French city of Le Havre.

Non-government groups like Oxfam claim G8 leaders have failed to meet aid promises to the poorest nations made during a 2005 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland.

Oxfam Deputy Director for Advocacy Emma Seery says G8 leaders must not forget these commitments when they meet with counterparts from several sub-Saharan African nations in Deauville.

"We think it is really important that the G8 does not put aside Africa when they are talking about the Middle East," said Seery. "That is not to say the Middle East should not be on the agenda.  It is a crucial issue facing the world right now and it is great and it is right that the G8 take that seriously."

The G8 is being hosted by France, which heads the group this year, along with the G20.  The summit will give French President Nicolas Sarkozy a chance to burnish his image as international statesman a year before presidential elections.  But some analysts say French voters are more concerned about jobs and the economy at home than Mr. Sarkozy's reputation abroad.

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