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G8 Leaders Prepare to Meet in Italian Earthquake Zone for Annual Summit

The annual G-8 summit of the world's leading industrialized nations gets underway on Wednesday in Italy with agenda items ranging from the ongoing global economic crisis to regional security issues and development aid to the world's poorest regions.

L'Aquila is set to host the leaders of the world's most powerful economies. The local airport has been readied, roads have been blocked off, and police and security personnel are highly visible.

This summit will be somewhat different from past ones in that the meeting site is a spartan military barracks in an area that was devastated by a powerful earthquake just three months ago.

The idea is to give world leaders a firsthand look at what happened. At least some of them are expected to visit areas destroyed by the quake.

The international spotlight on the region is welcome says the head of Italy's Civil Protection Agency, Guido Bertolaso.

"The worldwide attention will be focused for a week on L'Aquila. This is the best guarantee for the homeless people that they will not be forgotten," he said.

Many local residents welcome the presence of the G-8, but others question whether it will bring change.

During their talks here, world leaders also are expected to focus on major global issues, including the ongoing world recession and the deteriorating economic situation in the developing world. Development aid and food security for areas of Asia, Africa and elsewhere are expected to figure prominently.

Some G-8 countries, host nation Italy among them, have been criticized for not following through on aid pledges they have made.