Obama urges US-Europe partnership to face global threats

Barack Obama called Thursday for a revived alliance between the United States and Europe in countering the challenges and threats facing the world, whether from terrorism, climate change or nuclear proliferation.

"We cannot afford to be divided," the Democratic Party presidential hopeful said, speaking to an audience of some 200,000, the largest he has ever drawn. "America has no better partner than Europe."

Obama listed global threats as diverse as the terrorism of the 9/11 attacks, poorly secured nuclear material in the former Soviet Union and the booming cultivation of opium poppies in Afghanistan.

And he raised the challenges posed by climate change and the need for a new nuclear disarmament drive.

The Illinois senator was making the major foreign policy address of his foreign tour that began with US war theatres in Iraq and Afghanistan and led on to the Middle East before moving to Berlin.

The speech to an enthusiastic audience in the centre of the German capital was laden with historical references to the 1948 airlift that saved West Berlin from Soviet blockade and to the Berlin Wall that divided the city from 1961 to 1989.

"Partnership and cooperation among nations is not a choice; it is the one way, the only way, to protect our common security and advance our common humanity," he said to cheers.

"That is why the greatest danger of all is to allow new walls to divide us from one another."

Obama drew particular applause when he pointed out US failings to an audience, many of whom have become increasingly critical of US human rights violations in recent years.

"I know my country has not perfected itself. At times, we've struggled to keep the promise of liberty and equality for all of our people," he said.

"Will we reject torture and stand for the rule?" he asked rhetorically, calling also for an end to discrimination on grounds of race or creed.

German approval ratings for the US have dropped from well above 70 per cent under the presidency of Bill Clinton (1993-2001) to around 30 per cent under President George W Bush.

"But I also know how much I love America," he said in a call clearly directed at voters in the US.

Obama made clear he saw the major US military challenge in Afghanistan and called for greater effort from US partners in NATO.

"No one welcomes war. I recognize the enormous difficulties in Afghanistan. But my country and yours have a stake in seeing that NATO's first mission beyond Europe's borders is a success," he said.

The US could not do this alone, he said, adding that the Afghan people needed German troops.

The German troop contribution to Afghanistan, currently at 3,500 and set to rise to 4,500, is unpopular among the German populace, who fear it could increase the risk of terrorist attack.

Obama referred to a "new dawn in the Middle East" but called also for a direct message from the US and Europe to Iran to "abandon its nuclear ambitions."

He acknowledged differences between America and Europe, adding that "no doubt there will be differences in the future.

"But the burdens of global citizenship bind us together," he said, speaking under the central Berlin landmark of the Victory Column facing towards the Brandenburg Gate.

Obama made clear he would not take the US into isolation, saying "America cannot turn inward... Europe cannot turn inward."

Republican presidential candidate John McCain, who has struggled to keep media attention on his own campaign this week, was quick to respond.

McCain suggested it may have been inappropriate for Obama to make such a major address in Germany before even entering the White House.

"I'd love to give a speech in Germany," McCain told reporters in Ohio. "But I'd much prefer to do it as president of the United States rather than as a candidate for president."

Obama could nevertheless book a considerable publicity success in Berlin, drawing a crowd on a warm midsummer's evening of 200,000 according to police. This was well up on his largest US rallies of around 75,000.

Earlier the senator held separate talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, discussing a range of international issues.

German government spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm described the talks, the first between Merkel and the senator, as "very open and thoroughgoing and held in a very good atmosphere."

In line with government statements ahead of the visit, Obama made no statements to the press and answered no questions at either of the meetings.

Before arriving in Germany, Obama visited Israel, the Palestinian territories, Kuwait, Afghanistan, Iraq and Jordan. He was to travel on to Paris Friday afternoon and over the weekend to London, dpa reported.

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