This is the first of three articles designed to stabilize the global trace formula. The results apply to any group for which the fundamental lemma (and its variants for weighted orbital integrals) is valid. The main purpose of this paper is to establish a series of expansions that are parallel to the expansions in the trace formula. We shall also formulate the local and global theorems required to interpret the terms in these expansions. The proofs of the theorems will be given in the subsequent two articles. The expansions of this paper will then yield both a stable trace formula, and a decomposition of the ordinary trace formula into a linear combination of stable trace formulae.
AMS 2000 Mathematics subject classification: Primary 22E55. Secondary 11R39
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