Germany sees Obama speech as "positive signal to Europe"

The German government sees the Berlin speech by US Senator Barack Obama as "a positive signal to Europe," an official spokesman said Friday.

The call by the Democratic Party presidential hopeful for close international cooperation in dealing with global challenges was in line with the views of Chancellor Angela Merkel and her broad coalition government, Ulrich Wilhelm said.

Spokesmen for the main political parties in the coalition also welcomed the speech, made to an enthusiastic open-air audience of some 200,000 in central Berlin Thursday evening, reported dpa.

Eckart von Klaeden, foreign policy spokesman for Merkel's conservative Christian CDU/CSU parliamentary caucus, said the speech had been in the best tradition of US foreign policy.

Speaking to German media, Von Klaeden said the speech could as well have been made by Obama's rival for the US presidency, Republican Senator John McCain.

Gert Weisskirchen, Social Democrat (SPD) foreign policy spokesman, told the online edition of Der Spiegel news magazine: "It was the speech of a man of the world that was directed not only at Germans and Europeans, but also at Americans."

The most important message in the speech was that the US and Europe could resolve global problems only in cooperation, Weisskirchen said.

Horst Teltschik, who has for the past 10 years headed the Munich Conference on Security Policy, said Obama had raised outstanding issues that Germany and Europe had to respond to, for example the German contribution to the NATO effort in Afghanistan.

In his speech, the Illinois senator made a widely anticipated call for a larger German contribution, although in muted form.

"The Afghan people need our troops and your troops," he said, touching on an issue that has divided Germany.

The German troop contribution to Afghanistan, currently at 3,500 and set to rise to 4,500, has broad backing from the political parties, on condition that it is confined to the relatively peaceful north.

But it is unpopular among the German populace, who fear it could increase the risk of terrorist attack.

The precise details of Obama's schedule remained secret, although indications were that he would leave Berlin for Paris midday. He was due to meet French president Niclas Sarkozy on Friday evening.

There was speculation that he could visit Checkpoint Charlie, the main US checkpoint on the border between East and West Berlin during the Cold War, where the old signboards remain in place.

A visit to Berlin's new and highly regarded Jewish Museum or to Tempelhof Airport, to where US and British planes flew supplies during the 1948-49 airlift to break the Soviet blockade, were other possibilities mooted in the German media.

Obama's foreign tour, aimed at enhancing his foreign policy credentials with the US electorate, began with visits to Iraq and Afghanistan. He then travelled to the Middle East before arriving in Berlin for talks with Merkel on Thursday.

The senator is to travel to London over the weekend before returning to the US.

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