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Merkel doesn't want Obama speech at Brandenburg Gate

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Merkel doesn't want Obama speech at Brandenburg Gate
Berlin Mayor Wowereit and Chancellor Merkel are at odds. Photo: DPA
16:03 CEST+02:00
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has expressed misgivings about US Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama speaking in front of Berlin's famed Brandenburg Gate.

Merkel doesn't think the US election battle should be played out in front of the gate, and said she viewed the possibility of Obama culminating his July 24 visit to Berlin at the famous landmark with "certain displeasure," government spokesperson Thomas Steg said on Wednesday.

The decision as to whether Obama will be allowed to give a speech before the iconic monument lies with the city senate. In the past, only elected US presidents have been allowed to use the Brandenburg Gate for their addresses.

Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier, on the other hand, doesn't see a problem with allowing Obama the use of Pariser Platz, his spokesperson Jens Plötner said Wednesday.

But the question of where Obama might give a speech on his campaign stop in Berlin is causing tension between Merkel and Berlin's Mayor Wowereit, who said on Tuesday he would be happy to see Obama speak at the Brandenburg Gate. Some politicians and journalists have accused Wowereit of having selfish reasons for encouraging Berlin senate approval of the speech, though.

"Do you think Wowi [Wowereit's nickname] would let the opportunity to appear with Barack Obama go by?" Green Party deputy floor leader Jürgen Trittin said on German broadcaster N24 recently. "I think he's saying, 'He should go on, I'll be in the photo, and everything will be great'."

Obama has also been accused of wanting to use the Brandenburg Gate to cultivate media hype that he is the next JFK. "With the planned speech in Berlin at the Brandenburg gate, Obama is aiming for the Kennedy effect," German news magazine Der Spiegel's Washington correspondent Marc Pitzke wrote on Tuesday. "He is using this to tie himself to Kennedy's 1963 Berlin visit to The Wall and his 'Ich bin ein Berliner' speech at the Schöneberg city hall."

While the German government waits on the Berlin senate vote, they have offered a potential compromise: Obama will be allowed to walk through the Brandenburg Gate.

"Every other important American guest has gone through the Brandenburg Gate," Karsten Voigt, government coordinator for German-American relations told Der Spiegel on Tuesday. "There were always journalists present, and the guest was always able to say something too."

The Berlin visit will be part of a European tour that is set to include stops in Germany, France and the UK.

dpa/ddp

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