Barack Obama to speak at Berlin's Victory Column

Barack Obama, the presumptive US Democratic presidential candidate seeking to become the nation's first black leader, is to speak next Thursday at Berlin's famous Victory Column, the Berliner Zeitung reported early Friday, the dpa reported.

The newspaper, quoting sources close to the Berlin Senate, reported that the decision had been finalized - after some days of controversy about where he should speak.

Obama is preparing for a major foreign trip that is expected to start in Iraq and Afghanistan in the coming days, take him through Israel and the Palestinian territories, and ending in Europe.

For security reasons, details of the trip have not been divulged.

Obama, 46, was to to face Parisian Plaza (Pariser Platz) when he speaks, which would lend him the politically symbolic grandeur of the Brandenburg Gate as the backdrop.

The Obama campaign had floated the idea of Obama's speaking directly at the Brandenburg Gate - following the footsteps of the late president John F Kennedy, who visited the gate in the early '60s when it was fenced off by East-West political divisions.

But Chancellor Angela Merkel had reservations about the proposal, although the Berlin Senate appeared to be in favour of the idea.

Obama is often compared to Kennedy, who was also in his early '40s when elected and who, like Obama, had near rock-star status with his followers. The freshman US senator is also hugely popular in Europe.

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