G8 Summit will be largest world leader gathering at Camp David

President Obama speaks in Washington May 8, 2012. AP Photo

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(CBS News) WASHINGTON - Which of the lodges at Camp David will Chancellor Merkel be assigned for the G8 Summit this weekend? Which foreign leader will be rooming in Hemlock or Dogwood or in any of the other mountain cabins named for trees at the presidential retreat 63 miles from the White House?

"The allocation system, of course, is classified," says White House National Security Advisor Tom Donilon.

World leaders with sizeable entourages may be used to more expansive accommodations than they'll find at Camp David, but Donilon told reporters "there are adequate facilities there for each delegation."

He noted that the G8 Summit represents the largest single gathering of world leaders ever received at Camp David.

It's been 70 years since British Prime Minister Winston Churchill became the first foreign leader invited to the camp, then called "Shangri-La" by FDR. Some years later, President Eisenhower would re-name the 143-acre property for his father and 5-year old grandson, both named David. Ike said a place called "Shangri-La" was "just a little fancy for a Kansas farm boy."

Since taking office, President Obama has visited Camp David 22 times, spending all of part of 54 days there. His immediate predecessor was a far more frequent visitor. At this same point in his presidency, George W. Bush had made 81 visits to Camp David spanning all or part of 256 days.

At this same point, Mr. Bush played host there to ten world leaders. This is the first time Mr. Obama is having foreign guests. This week's visitors include the chiefs of state or heads of government from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia.

"The summit is intended to be small and intimate," Donilon said at his press briefing. "The president made a conscious decision to host the G8 meeting at Camp David for this reason."

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Situated in the Catoctin Mountains of Maryland, Camp David provides a pleasant alternative at this time of year to the motorcade congestion and disagreeable heat and humidity of Washington.

There are long wooded paths for strolling, a swimming pool, a bowling alley and putting greens. Not that the leaders will have much time for amusements. They'll be there to discuss the international crises and calamities that threaten the Free World.

Their agenda is topped by the continuing showdown with Iran and its refusal to abandon its program to produce nuclear weapons. The leaders will also discuss the similar standoff with North Korea. The Group of Eight leaders will focus on economic issues first thing Saturday morning.

"And obviously this comes at a very delicate time with respect to the European economy," said Donilon, noting the economic crisis in Greece and its possible exit from the Euro zone.

The Saturday agenda at Camp David includes energy and climate issues. There'll be discussions about global oil markets and whether a coordinated tapping of national petroleum reserves is warranted.

Pres Obama has also put food security on the agenda and invited the leaders of four African nations to join the discussion about the difficulties they face in acquiring reliable and affordable supplies of food for their people.

By Saturday afternoon, the G8 leaders call it a day and most of them head to Chicago, where President Obama plays host to an even larger array of world leaders representing 62 nations - of which 28 are members of the North Atlantic alliance.

It's only the 3rd time in NATO's history that the U.S. has hosted the Leader's Summit. And it's the first time it wasn't in Washington. President Obama chose Chicago as a way to provide an economic boost to his hometown.

The war in Afghanistan tops the NATO agenda as the alliance has a force of 130,000 military personnel defending the western-backed government of President Hamid Karzai against assaults from al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

President Obama is looking to NATO leaders to agree on a plan that will enable the U.S. and its allies to end their military involvement in Afghanistan in 2014.

"Our coalition will set a goal for Afghan forces to be in the lead for combat operations across the country next year," President Obama said on his visit to Afghanistan two weeks ago. "International troops will continue to train, advise and assist the Afghans, and fight alongside them when needed. But we will shift into a support role as Afghans step forward."

President Obama has invited Karzai to be in Chicago for talks on Sunday morning.

"NATO is a cornerstone alliance for the United States," says Donilon. And the back-to-back summits of G8 and NATO, he said, "really do underscore and are an embodiment of American leadership on a range of global challenges."

Unspoken, but self-evident, the two summits also provide an unparalleled position on the world stage for President Obama. And it comes less than six months before American voters decide whether to bestow on him a second term.

Mitt Romney can only watch from the sidelines as President Obama presides as leader of the Free World.

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    Mark Knoller is a CBS News White House correspondent.

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