On Friday evening at Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland, world leaders rapidly got down to business for the G8 Summit, as President Obama hosted a private working dinner for nine. Guests arrived shortly after 8:00 PM, and the dinner in the Laurel Cabin lasted a little more than two hours, according to a senior Administration official. Topics discussed included Iran, Syria, Burma, and North Korea, and the importance of including women in the political process, a key point for President Obama. He was seated between new French President François Hollande and British Prime Minister David Cameron. (Above)
President Obama welcomed his guests at the door of the cabin as they arrived in the twilight. It was a warm evening, and he was tieless, clad in a navy jacket and pale blue shirt.
"François, we said you could take off the tie!" President Obama called out as the French President walked up.
"For my press!" responded Hollande, but by the time the leaders sat down, his tie was gone.
Also attending the dinner: Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany; José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda of Japan, Prime Minister Mario Monti of Italy, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada; Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev of Russia.
Translation devices were placed on the table, and are visible in the photos. Iran got particular attention during the dinner, due to upcoming talks in Baghdad, and sanctions were discussed. The importance of transition in Syria was also discussed, as well as Russia's role in both Syria and Iran, according to the White House.
"We believe there is a sense of urgency here and that the onus is on the Iranians to take concrete steps to demonstrate that their program is peaceful," said the senior Administration official. "Nobody expects to resolve every issue in Baghdad...They want to make sure the Iranians understand they need to take concrete steps."
President Obama stressed the importance of including women in the political process; women should have full and equal rights everywhere, he said.
A birthday cake for Noda...
No menu for the dinner was released, but as the evening came to a close, the President presented a chocolate birthday cake to Prime Minister Noda, who celebrates his 55th on Sunday, May 20. (Above)
The global economy and oil markets will be the subject of meetings on Saturday, and the President is expected to have bilaterals on the sidelines of the Summit. There will be a working lunch devoted to Africa and food security, following the President's announcement on Friday morning of a new global plan for public-private partnerships for the continent, the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition.
Hollande met with the President earlier on Friday at the White House for an Oval Office bilateral. Cameron, with whom the President has a special relationship, was honored with a State Dinner in March of this year. Merkel was honored with a State Dinner in June of 2011. (Above: At the reception before the dinner, the President chats with Barroso and Monti)
The President arrived at Camp David, located in Catoctin Mountain Park in Frederick County, Maryland, at 6:30 on Marine One. On Saturday night, he departs for the NATO Summit in Chicago.
*The schedule for the weekend.
Click here for all G8 posts.
*Update: On Saturday morning as he opened the G8 working sessions, President Obama gave a comprehensive recap of the dinner discussion.
*Photos by Pete Souza/White House. In full dinner photo, seated clockwise from the President: Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev of Russia, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council, José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda of Japan, Prime Minister Mario Monti of Italy, Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada, and President François Hollande of France.