Topics for G-8 discussion: Energy, democracy, flashpoints

Russia was set to host the elite group for the first time, amid growing differences with its G-8 partners over Moscow's domestic and foreign policy.

Energy security, infectious diseases and education are to be the top agenda items for the three-day meeting opening Saturday, and Russian President Vladimir Putin told a meeting of young people from the G-8 countries on Friday that the leaders saw eye to eye on them, according to the AP.

International non-governmental organizations pushed for the leaders to make more progress on previous commitments to battle poverty, while Russian and foreign activists meeting in St. Petersburg on Friday hoped that G-8 leaders would challenge Putin on Russia's backpedaling on democracy.

The leaders of China, India, South Africa, Brazil and Mexico were scheduled to join the G-8 leaders for some of the discussions Monday. British Prime Minister Tony Blair proposed that all five be made G-8 members so that the grouping could better tackle the problems of developing nations, according to a report in London's Guardian newspaper on Thursday.

Russian officials have said that the presence of those countries, especially energy-hungry China, was essential to any plans to boost the stability of global energy supply and demand - a subject the Kremlin had hoped to make the centerpiece of the summit, highlighting Russia's position as the world's top oil and natural gas supplier.