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Obama calls for U.S.-European effort on Iran, other issues

Barack Obama called on Germany to send a clear message to Iran to abandon its nuclear ambitions. 

Speaking to an enthusiastic Berlin crowd on Thursday, Obama urged renewed U.S.-Europe solidarity on a host of issues, from the war on terror to global warming to the threat of a nuclear Iran. 

The time has come to “answer the call for a new dawn in the Middle East,” Obama said. “My country must stand with yours and with Europe in sending a direct message to Iran that it must abandon its nuclear ambitions.”

The presumptive Democratic nominee for U.S. president delivered his speech within sight of the Brandenburg Gate, where 21 years ago President Ronald Reagan publicly called on Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down” the Berlin Wall.

“The greatest danger of all is to allow new walls to divide us from one another. The walls between old allies on either side of the Atlantic cannot stand,” he said. “The walls between races and tribes, natives and immigrants, Christians and Muslims and Jews cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down.”

Obama’s choice of location was the subject of some controversy, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel making it known that she was uncomfortable giving a reception more suited to a U.S. president than to a presidential candidate. 

Obama ended up giving his speech at some distance from the symbolic Brandenburg Gate, at the 1864 Victory Column. That podium was moved to its current spot in 1939 by Hitler, to enlarge the avenue to make way for massive marches.

An estimated 200,000 people turned out for Obama’s speech, according to police.  

During his visit to Germany, Obama met with Merkel and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Obama had been scheduled to visit Berlin’s Holocaust memorial, which is just next to his hotel, but the senator reportedly was exhausted from his whirlwind trip and chose to skip it.

Obama’s recurring theme in Berlin was the danger of a schism between Europe and the United States, which he said share the same goal: “defeating terror and drying up the well of extremism that supports it.”  

In his speech near Brandenberg, he said, “If we could win a battle of ideas against the Communists, we could stand with the vast majority of Muslims who reject extremism that leads to hate instead of hope.” He added that one of the biggest challenges is to “give meaning to the words ‘never again’ in Darfur.”

Obama also urged support for Lebanon’s struggle for democracy and for “the Israelis and Palestinians, who seek a secure and lasting peace.”

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