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Obama, Putin could be on collision course at summit

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By The Associated Press
Friday, June 14, 2013, 7:57 p.m.

WASHINGTON — When leaders of the world's biggest economies gathered at the presidential retreat of Camp David last year, European elections had rattled the continent with a rejection of austerity measures.

President Obama was seeking re-election.

The sense of urgency was palpable as Obama made an emphatic pitch for Europe's powers to focus more on economic growth.

These days, as Obama prepares for another summit of the Group of Eight industrial nations next week, the furor has died down. Financial tensions in Europe have eased and even the language has changed from “austerity” to “growth-oriented structural reforms.”

“The context of that discussion has changed a lot over the past year,” said Caroline Atkinson, a senior White House international economics adviser.

While America still wants Europe to temper the debt trimming and increase global demand, Obama is not expected to be as insistent with other G-8 leaders this time as they meet at a luxury hotel and golf resort beside Lough Erne in Northern Ireland's County Fermanagh lakeland.

Obama arrives at the G-8 with Syria foremost on his mind. His decision to authorize lethal aid to Syrian rebels inevitably will be front and center, complicated by the attendance of Russian President Vladimir Putin, one of Syrian President Bashar Assad's most powerful backers.

Obama is scheduled to arrive in Northern Ireland on Monday and immediately deliver a speech in Belfast largely focused on U.S. support for the peace process there. The global economy will be the topic of the first meeting with G-8 leaders at the summit site, followed by a one-on-one meeting with Putin.

After the summit ends, Obama will head to Berlin for meetings with German officials, including Chancellor Angela Merkel.

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