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News Wrap: Greece Uncertainty, Austerity Top Agenda at G-8 Summit

May 18, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT
In other news Friday, leaders of some of the world's largest economies began gathering at Camp David in Maryland for the G-8 summit. Also, German Chancellor Angela Merkel suggested Greece hold a referendum on staying in the eurozone, according to a spokesman for Greece's caretaker government.
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KWAME HOLMAN: Facebook’s coming out did little to help Wall Street as a whole. The Dow Jones industrial average lost another 73 points to close at 12,369. The Nasdaq fell nearly 35 points to close at 2,778. For the week, the Dow lost 3.5 percent; the Nasdaq fell more than 5 percent.

Leaders of the world’s largest economies began gathering at Camp David in Maryland today for the Group of 8 summit. Dignitaries were met at Dulles Airport outside Washington before heading to the presidential retreat and the G-8 gathering. Uncertainty over Greece, the euro system, and austerity measures topped the agenda.

Before leaving the White House, President Obama called for more emphasis on economic growth.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: And we’re looking forward to a fruitful discussion later this evening and tomorrow with the other G8 leaders about how we can manage a responsible approach to fiscal consolidation that is coupled with a strong growth agenda.

KWAME HOLMAN: The G8 summit winds up tomorrow night. From there, most of the leaders will head to Chicago for a larger NATO summit.

The political crisis in Greece took a new turn today. A spokesman for the caretaker government reported that German Chancellor Angela Merkel suggested Greece hold a referendum on staying in the euro system when it holds new elections in June. The German government later denied it, but Greek leaders complained of outside interference. Merkel has insisted on austerity measures in Greece as the price of a European bailout.

In Syria, government troops stepped in again to break up mass Friday protests. Security forces fired tear gas and live ammunition in Aleppo to disperse thousands of people. There were similar rallies in other cities. Meanwhile, the military stepped up its shelling of Rastan. Thick plumes of smoke could be seen rising above that town in central Syria.

In Damascus, the Norwegian commander of a U.N. observer mission urged both sides to stop the bloodshed.

MAJ. GEN. ROBERT MOOD, head of U.N. Mission to Syria: No volume of observers can achieve a progressive drop and a permanent end to the violence if the commitment to give dialogue a chance is not genuine from all internal and external actors.

KWAME HOLMAN: The U.N. estimated in March that more than 9,000 people have died in the Syrian uprising. Hundreds more have been killed since then.

In Afghanistan, NATO announced two service members were killed in the eastern part of the country. That put this year’s toll at 154. At least 100 of those were Americans.

Meanwhile, the new French president stuck by his campaign pledge to withdraw French combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year. Francois Hollande met with President Obama in Washington. He indicated some of the 3,300 French troops in Afghanistan might remain, but not in combat roles.

The House passed a defense budget today worth $642 billion, defying a veto threat from President Obama. By adding $8 billion in spending, the bill violates the deficit-cutting deal the president and congressional Republicans agreed to last summer.

Lawmakers also supported the administration’s ability to detain terror suspects indefinitely without charge. That includes Americans captured on U.S. soil.

Those are some of the day’s major stories.