Thousands turn out to hear Obama in Berlin


US presidential candidate Barack Obama urged Europe today to stand by the United States in bringing stability to Afghanistan and confronting other threats from climate change to nuclear proliferation.

In a speech delivered at the "Victory Column" in Berlin's Tiergarten park, Mr Obama said America had no better partner than Europe and cautioned the allies against turning inward.

"No one welcomes war. I recognise the enormous difficulties in Afghanistan," Obama said in the only formal speech he is to give on his week-long tour of Europe and the Middle East.

"But my country and yours have a stake in seeing that NATO's first mission beyond Europe's borders is a success. For the people of Afghanistan, and for our shared security, the work must be done. America cannot do this alone."

Mr Obama, who is highly popular in Germany, spoke to a crowd one local official estimated at 100,000.

The German media has compared his appearance to former President John F. Kennedy's famous 1963 "Ich bin ein Berliner" address.

Mr Obama did not break into German like Mr Kennedy, but spoke at length of the historic ties between the United States and Germany, touching on the Berlin airlift 60 years ago and the fall of the Berlin Wall.

"The fall of the Berlin Wall brought new hope. But that very closeness has given rise to new dangers," he said.

"No one nation, no matter how large or powerful, can defeat such challenges alone."

He said Europe and the United States needed to stand together to send Iran a message that it must abandon its nuclear ambitions and urged both sides to move beyond their differences over the Iraq war to help suffering Iraqis rebuild their lives.

"Yes, there have been differences between America and Europe. No doubt, there will be differences in the future," he said. "The greatest danger of all is to allow new walls to divide us from one another."

Thousands of Germans and some tourists, wearing Obama buttons, "Yes We Can" t-shirts and carrying campaign balloons, cheered at the podium where he spoke.

Around 700 policemen are helping with security around the "Siegessaeule", a 230-foot high column built to celebrate 19th century Prussian military victories over Denmark, France and Austria. 

Mr Obama has a 6-point lead over Republican John McCain in the US presidential race as a growingpercentage of Americans believe the country is headed in the wrong direction, according to an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released yesterday.

Mr Obama leads McCain by 47 per cent to 41 percent for the November 4th election, unchanged from last month. But 55 per cent believed Obama, a 46-year-old first-term Illinois senator, would be the riskier choice for president, while 35 percent said that of Mr McCain (71) a fourth-term Arizona senator, the poll said.

But Obama's message of change may resonate with a disgruntled electorate after eight years of a Republican-run White House. Only 13 per cent of those polled believed the country was headed in the right direction.

The sagging economy remains the public's top concern, but voters do not have much confidence in either candidate on that issue, with 28 per cent saying they had faith Mr Obama could put it back on track, while 17 per cent said that of Mr McCain.

Mr Obama's lead over McCain expands to 13 points when third-party candidates Ralph Nader and Bob Barr are included, with Obama at 48 per cent, McCain at 35 per cent, Nader at 5 per cent and Barr at 2 per cent, the poll said.