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Top honor

June 8, 2011

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and US President Barack Obama have stressed their close ties during her visit to Washington, where Obama presented the chancellor with America's highest civilian award.

Obama and Merkel at the White House
Obama hopes to strengthen ties with GermanyImage: AP

US President Barack Obama awarded German Chancellor Angela Merkel with America's highest civilian award during a state dinner at the White House on Tuesday.

Obama presented Merkel with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, saying the chancellor was "an eloquent voice for human rights and values worldwide."

Merkel said she saw the medal as a "testament to the excellent partnership that exists between Germany and the United States."

The ceremony in the Rose Garden of the White House was the highlight of Merkel's two-day visit to Washington D.C..

Euro concerns

Earlier in the day, Merkel and Obama stressed their countries' close ties during a joint news conference held following a meeting at the White House.

But Obama expressed concerns about the current European debt crisis, saying that any "uncontrolled spiral" and default in the eurozone would be disastrous for the global economy.

President Barack Obama, wife Michelle Obama, Chancellor Angela Merkel and husband Joachim Sauer
Merkel's husband, Joachim Sauer (left), was also invitedImage: picture-alliance/dpa

"We need to make sure that all the best ideas are brought on the problem," Obama said. He also noted Germany's key role in efforts to come to grips with the crisis, which has seen the International Monetary Fund and the European Union provide billions of euros in financial bailouts to Greece, Ireland and Portugal.

Merkel said Germany and its European partners were aware of their obligations to the global economy and would ensure that the financial woes of no single country would be allowed to destabilize the euro.

"If a country is in danger and therefore endangers the euro as a whole, it is in each and every country's vested interest to see to it that this common currency area is not endangered, and we will act in such a way...that sustainability is guaranteed," she said.

'Gadhafi must go'

On Libya, both leaders stressed that leader Moammar Gadhafi must step down. The chancellor said Germany was "committed to the Libyan cause" and the success of a NATO operation to impose a no-fly zone over Libya - despite the fact that it abstained from a United Nations Security Council vote authorizing the mission.

Earlier in the day, Merkel was welcomed to the White House by President Obama and his wife Michelle. She also received the honor of a 19-gun military salute.

In a speech delivered on the south lawn of the White House, Obama said the transatlantic alliance was at the heart of efforts to promote peace and prosperity around the world.

Obama and Merkel
Merkel and Obama met for private talks on MondayImage: dapd

"Germany at the heart of Europe is one of our strongest allies and Chancellor Merkel is one of my closest global partners," he said. "Our alliances with nations like Germany are more important than ever, indeed they are indispensable."

Merkel also highlighted the close ties between the two countries.

"We Germans know that America has always been a true friend to us. Our friendship has grown and matured, and every day it is filled with new life," she said.

Working dinner upon arrival

Merkel and Obama had already held two hours of talks at a Washington restaurant following her arrival on Monday evening.

German officials said those talks, which were held in a "relaxed atmosphere" touched on a wide range of subjects such as the upheaval in North Africa, the situation in Afghanistan and the Middle East peace process.

This was Merkel's sixth trip to Washington since Obama took office. She was accompanied by five members of her cabinet, who held meetings with their American counterparts.

Author: Chuck Penfold, Matt Zuvela (AP, AFP, dpa)
Editor: Martin Kuebler

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