Obama presses Europe on Afghanistan in Berlin
US presidential candidate Barack Obama urged Europe today to
stand by the United States in bringing stability to Afghanistan and confronting
other threats from climate change to nuclear proliferation.
Speaking at the Victory Column in Berlin's Tiergarten Park to an audience police estimated at over 200 000, the Democratic senator said America had no better partner than Europe but cautioned the allies against turning inward.
Broad in scope, the speech was aimed not only at European audiences but also US voters who face a choice in the November 4 election between the Democrat Obama and Republican John McCain.
McCain, a Vietnam veteran and former prisoner of war, is an Arizona senator who has long been an influential voice on foreign policy and military matters. He is making national security a central focus of his campaign and contends that Obama, a 46-year-old first-term senator from Illinois, lacks the foreign affairs seasoning to serve as commander-in-chief.
Obama has aimed to dispel that notion with a seven-nation tour this week that has taken him to Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, Jordan and Israel.
He is highly popular in Germany and his appearance has been likened to the 1963 visit of President John F. Kennedy, whose "Ich bin ein Berliner" (I am a Berliner) address shortly after the building of the Berlin Wall became an iconic moment of the Cold War.
Obama did not break into German like Kennedy but spoke at length of the historic ties between the United States and Germany, touching on the Berlin airlift 60 years ago and the fall of the Wall in 1989.
Obama has urged a shift in focus from Iraq to Afghanistan, where stability is threatened by a fierce Taliban insurgency. Germany has roughly 3 500 troops in Afghanistan and is expected to raise that by 1 000 later this year.
But Chancellor Angela Merkel has resisted pressure from the US to send German soldiers to the more dangerous south of the country and said on the eve of Obama's visit that Germany had "limits" in what it could do.
Obama urged Europe and the United States needed to stand together to send Iran a message that it must abandon its nuclear ambitions and urged both sides to move beyond their differences over the Iraq war to help suffering Iraqis rebuild their lives, Reuters reported.