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Group of Eight set to meet; France’s Francois Hollande to first visit Obama

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Leaders of the world’s eight richest economies are set to gather at Camp David this weekend amid questions about Europe’s spiraling debt crisis.

But before they do, one key player, French President Francois Hollande, will stop by the White House to introduce himself to President Obama.

Hollande, sworn in Tuesday, is a wild card in the Group of Eight summit, a largely unknown figure whose emphasis on economic stimulus differs sharply from his predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, who had forged a strong relationship with Obama.

But Hollande isn’t the only relatively new leader making first impressions. Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda also assumed power within the past year.

That Russian President Vladi­mir Putin has elected to skip the summit, sending Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in his place, has only further upended the mix of personalities. And experts cautioned that new leaders could bring new challenges.

“Personal relations play an even more essential role when there’s a crisis, and the G-8 is turning into a euro-crisis summit,” said Heather Conley, director of the Europe Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Hollande’s economic views might not find much of a welcome at the Camp David meeting, where nations remain worried about how Europe’s problems will affect world trade and finan­ces.

Hollande will face a skeptical reception if he proposes to boost the economy in the short run with even more government debt — particularly from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a strong advocate of government austerity.

© The Washington Post Company