Berlin's mayor approves Obama speech in city

Wed, Jul 9, 2008, 01:00

GERMANY:BERLIN MAYOR Klaus Wowereit, has given his blessing for US presidential hopeful Barack Obama to speak at the Brandenburg Gate later this month, despite the reservations of Chancellor Angela Merkel, writes Derek Scallyin Berlin..

According to reports, Dr Merkel is concerned at allowing the capital's most famous landmark, the symbol of German unity, to become another campaign stop on Mr Obama's European tour.

Only a handful of world politicians have been allowed speak there, most memorably Ronald Reagan in 1987 when he urged then Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to "open this gate, tear down this wall".

Merkel aides suggest it may seem presumptuous to extend the honour to a mere candidate for the US presidency. But the final word on the Brandenburg Gate lies with Mr Wowereit, and yesterday he came out in favour of the idea.

"The mayor would be pleased if Mr Obama used the occasion of a visit to the Brandenburg Gate to convey a message," said a spokesman, adding that it remained to be seen "how this fits in the programme for the visit".

Mr Obama's campaign team expressed interest in using a speech at the gate to suggest that the Democratic candidate promises a new start for trans-atlantic relations strained in the Bush era.

Mr Obama is likely to receive a rapturous welcome when he visits the German capital.

Last month, a survey said that 72 per cent of Germans would like to see him become the next US president, compared to just 11 per cent for his likely Republican opponent, John McCain.