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After the Speech

DPA news agency (tt)July 26, 2008

The German government sees the Berlin speech by US Senator Barack Obama as "a positive signal to Europe," an official spokesman said on Friday, as the Democratic Party presidential hopeful left for Paris.

A supporter of U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., holds a poster meaning "Obama for Chancellor" prior to Obama's speech at the victory column in Berlin
Some Obama supporters in Germany went as far as suggesting he should run for chancellorImage: AP

Obama's call 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.

The Illinois senator, who conducted no public engagements in Berlin on Friday, left for Paris and a meeting with President Nicolas Sarkozy shortly after 2.00 pm.

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

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.

A man of the world

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., left, shakes hands with supporters after speaking at the Victory Column in Berlin
The US senator is hugely popular in GermanyImage: AP

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.

Unpopular mission

A balloon of a supporter of U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill. flies next to the victory column in Berlin
Obama spoke next to the Victory Column in BerlinImage: AP

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.

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.

After Paris, the senator travels to London for talks with Prime Minister Gordon Brown before returning to the US.