G8: Obama chooses Camp David for intimate meetings

The gathering of G8 leaders is the biggest gathering of foreign leaders at Camp David.

Washington: The gathering of G8 leaders is the biggest gathering of foreign leaders at Camp David, the scenic presidential retreat in the picturesque Catoctin Mountains of Maryland, which has been witness to several historic moments in the past.

Of course, what was the process followed to allot the cabins to the visiting dignitaries would be a classified one, said US National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, but he did not expected that G8 Summit would be the biggest gathering of foreign leaders at Camp David.

"The summit is intended to be small and intimate, and the (US) President made a conscious decision to host the G8 meeting at Camp David for this reason. Each head of state or government will have his or her own cabin, and they`ll have the opportunity, obviously, to meet informally on the margins of the meetings and to take full advantage of the grounds at Camp David," Donilon told reporters here during a news conference yesterday.

G8, as it is called, is the exclusive group of top eight economic nations of the world powers. It is made up of the leaders of the United States, Japan, Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Canada and Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin is not attending the summit. Instead, he would be represented by his predecessor and Prime Minister, Dmitry Medvedev.

In addition, Obama has invited four African leaders - Presidents Yayi Boni of Benin, John Atta Mills of Ghana and Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania, and Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia - to join food security talks.

Donilon said that the leader meetings themselves will occur around the dining room table of the Laurel cabin. "I think this is consistent with the history and purpose of the G8 meetings. This is really a back-to-basics approach, if you will," he said.

The meetings, he said, have their origins in the 1970s when the United States hosted informal meetings with financial officials from the major developed economies.

Observing that G8 meetings now have become large gatherings with infrastructure and all kinds of support staff and long communiqués, Donilon said this time the US President wanted to pull away from that and really get back to basics, really get back to the intent, which is to have the leaders of the developed economies in the world being able to talk face to face in intimate sessions the issues facing them. "That`s what undergirds the President`s decision to have this at Camp David," he said.

Responding to a question, Donilon said the allocation of the foreign leaders at Camp David is classified and would not divulge the details of it. "The allocation system, of course, is classified and really can`t go into that," he said.

"It`s a complex of buildings. And there are adequate facilities out there for each delegation -- each head of state to have his or her cabin, and for each to be accompanied by a key staff person and in some cases two or three staff people," he said, adding that it`s a pretty expensive facility.


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