Obama, G8 challenge Iran over nukes and oil

CAMP DAVID, Md. -- President Obama together with world leaders turned up the heat on Iran during the G8 Summit at Camp David on Saturday, displaying a unified front on the country’s nuclear ambitions while lauding a united approach to help bring down oil prices if the situation worsens.

Meeting at the presidential retreat in Maryland for the second day, the leaders sent a strong signal to Tehran a couple of days before another round of Iran discussions in Baghdad and allowed Obama to address a domestic problem at the same time.

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Obama who called Iran’s nuclear program a “grave concern” for the world leaders said that the group is “firmly committed to continuing with the approach of sanctions and pressure in combination with diplomatic discussions.”

“Our hope is that we can resolve this issue in a peaceful fashion that respects Iran’s sovereignty and its rights in the international community, but also recognizes its responsibilities,” Obama told reporters at Camp David on Saturday.  

At the same time, Obama—conscious of the recent spike in gas prices around the U.S. -- and the leaders put Iran on notice when they announced on Saturday that they would go to the International Energy Agency if they continue to disrupt a major source of the world’s oil supply.

“There have been increasing disruptions in the supply of oil to the global market over the past several months, which pose a substantial risk to global economic growth,” said a statement by Obama and the G8 leaders. 

“In response, major producers have increased their output while drawing prudently on excess capacity,” the statement said.  “Looking ahead to the likelihood of further disruptions in oil sales and the expected increased demand over the coming months, we are monitoring the situation closely and stand ready to call upon the International Energy Agency to take appropriate action to ensure that the market is fully and timely supplied.”

Asked about the development on Saturday, White House officials would not say if or when the U.S. strategic oil reserve would be tapped. But they touted “broad unity” should the conditions warrant it.

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The international leaders spent a good portion of the day on Saturday discussing Europe’s fiscal crisis, which could also have a tangible effect on Obama’s reelection bid.

Speaking to reporters early in the day, Obama said the group “all agreed that growth and fiscal consolidation should be a part of an overall package that all of us have to pursue in order for us to achieve the prosperity for our citizens that we’re looking for.”

A few hours later, the group of eight leaders put out a statement later Saturday saying they welcomed the discussion about how to "generate growth, while maintaining a firm commitment to implement fiscal consolidation to be assessed on a structural basis."

The leaders said they agree on the importance of a "strong and cohesive Eurozone for global stability and recovery" and touted their support for Greece — which is in financial turmoil — remaining in the Eurozone "while respecting its commitments."

"We all have an interest in the success of specific measures to strengthen the resilience of the Eurozone and growth in Europe," the leaders said in the statement. "We support Euro Area Leaders’ resolve to address the strains in the Eurozone in a credible and timely manner and in a manner that fosters confidence, stability and growth."

But when Obama was asked after a morning session with the leaders if there were any firm decisions made on the Eurozone, he said there was still “more work to do.”

Still, White House officials maintain that much was accomplished at the president’s rural retreat in Maryland’s Catoctin Mountains.

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The officials say Obama had the opportunity to spend one-on-one time with leaders in the presidential hideaway, going for walks, and holding “spontaneous, unscripted meetings” on the front porches of cabins and --in one case— at the gym.

Obama spent time at the retreat’s gym with British Prime Minister David Cameron on Saturday morning, where the two chatted about the economy while they were on their respective treadmills.

Before leaving for Chicago on Saturday evening for the NATO Summit, Obama will hold one private bilateral meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who had been pushing for strict fiscal austerity measures in troubled European economies.  But this week, Merkel said she indicated she was open to stimulus programs in Greece to spur growth.

But problems aside, the group of leaders sought to forge a united front on Saturday, even as they posed for their family photo before a crowd of reporters. 

“Everybody give them one wave,” Obama said to the leaders. “Let’s look happy.”