Group of Eight leaders kick off talks on issues ranging from the global financial crisis to climate change to the situations in Iran and Xinjiang, China.
Here is a rundown of the main agenda items for the three-day meeting in the earthquake-hit central Italian city of L’Aquila:
Global financial crisis: Officials say the summit offers a chance to assess progress after a G20 summit in London in April which committed one trillion dollars to the International Monetary Fund and other global bodies to help struggling economies.
Several delegations have said they want the summit to focus on banking sector reform and bringing greater stability to the volatile oil market.
Climate change: The leaders of the world’s biggest polluters are to discuss climate change with their counterparts from other major economies such as China, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Mexico, South Africa and South Korea.
While G8 countries generate 40 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, the broader group accounts for 80 per cent of the total.
Negotiators struggling to reach an agreement on cutting emissions in time for a conference in Denmark by the end of the year regard the three-day summit as a golden opportunity to haul the process out of a rut.
Iran: G8 foreign ministers meeting in Trieste, northeast Italy, late last month issued a statement “deploring” the post-election violence in Iran, and the heads of state and government will pursue debate on the crisis in L’Aquila.
Western leaders have made clear that they plan to push Iran to the top of the agenda, but China and Russia are cool towards internationalising it.
The G8 will also seek to forge a unified position in opposition to Iran’s nuclear programme.
Xinjiang violence: With tensions still at boiling point in China’s remote northwest Xinjiang region, G8 leaders will appeal for a peaceful resolution to the conflict pitting Han Chinese against Muslim Uighurs.
Chinese President Hu Jintao cut short an official visit to Italy for the summit and left for home early Wednesday “due to the situation in northwest China’s Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region” the Xinhua news agency reported.
State Councillor Dai Bingguo would take part in the summit on Hu’s behalf, Xinhua reported.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel had planned to speak to Hu on the margins of the summit about the violence in the region where 156 people died in weekend clashes.
Food Security: The G8’s host, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, has said he expects the summit to come up with pledges of between 10 and 15 billion dollars to develop the farming sector in impoverished countries.
Such a pledge would reflect a growing trend by richer countries to concentrate less on food aid but rather provide more support for farming, particularly in Africa.