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Stephen Harper Attends G8 Summit In Europe

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(CBC) -- Prime Minister Stephen Harper will travel to Europe on Wednesday on his first foreign trip since winning a majority this month.

As was the case on much of the campaign trail, economic issues will feature prominently at the meeting, which begins Thursday in Deauville, France.

Indeed, Harper has asked to be one of the first leaders to speak on the issue.

Debt problems continue in Greece, Portugal, Spain, Ireland and elsewhere, threatening the economic recovery across the continent and abroad.

In addition to economic issues, conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa are likely to dominate the agenda.

Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird announced economic sanctions on Tuesday against Syria, where 1,000 protesters are believed to have been killed in the recent uprising against the regime of president Bashar al-Assad.

"This abhorrent crackdown must end," Baird said. "It is a grave breach of international peace."

G8 members Canada, France and the United Kingdom are all contributing to the mission against Moammar Gadhafi's regime in Libya, so the conflict in that North African nation will be on the agenda.

The mission is scheduled to end next month, and the G8 will likely spend some time discussing what's to be done next. But it won't be easy to find common ground on the issue, John Kirton of University of Toronto's G8 research group says.

"Harper will need all of his determination and skill to get the G8 singing from the same page," he said.

The summit wraps up on Friday, after which Harper is scheduled to visit Greece.