Obama to visit Berlin for foreign policy speech

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Barack Obama is expected to make a major foreign policy speech at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate at the end of July in which he promises a sharp break with the gung-ho foreign policies of George Bush, if elected President in November.

The Democratic candidate is expected to begin a foreign tour next week with a brief visit to London, where he will meet Gordon Brown and David Cameron, it was reported last night. He is also due to visit France, Afghanistan, Iraq and Israel over the coming weeks.

Two American Presidents, John F Kennedy and Ronald Reagan – one Democrat the other Republican – both made famous cold-war era speeches in Berlin and Mr Obama's advisers hope some of the magic rubs off on him. A televised appearance before the famous Berlin landmark would help burnish Mr Obama's image as a World leader-in-waiting while wrapping him in the mantle of Presidents Reagan and Kennedy.

Mr Obama's campaign strategy involves reaching out to Republicans as well as Democrats and he has spoken fondly of the optimism that President Reagan instilled in Americans, even as he undermined the Democratic Party. Twenty years ago last month, President Reagan mounted a podium in front of an ugly concrete barrier separating the Brandenburg Gate from West Berlin and made his famous plea: "Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall."

John F Kennedy did not speak at the Brandenburg Gate, but his words "Ich bin ein Berliner", uttered in 1963, were a declaration of solidarity with the besieged of West Berlin. Diplomats expect Mr Obama's Berlin address to be short on specifics, but predict that it will unmistakably signal that, from global warming to fighting international terrorism, an Obama administration would work with closely with European allies rather than ignore their advice. Mr Obama is also expected to lecture European countries, especially Germany, about the need to contribute more to fight the Taliban and al-Qai'da in Afghanistan.

"He can't afford to be seen to be reaching out to European too much or he will be branded a softee," according to an Obama campaign source.

If elected, it is anticipated that Mr Obama will quickly draft a prominent figure such as former president Bill Clinton to work on a peace plan for the Middle East and even draft Al Gore to help forge an international compact on Global warming. But for his forthcoming trips to Europe, Iraq and Afghanistan, Mr Obama is expected to stress the damage of the Bush administration rather than the specifics of any policies he intends to implement.

For months, Klaus Scharioth, Germany's ambassador to Washington, has been trying to persuade the Obama campaign that Berlin and not London or Paris, should be at the heart of his European trip. Mr Obama's foreign policy advisers are almost all veterans of the Clinton administration and they are believed to be giving high priority to getting the relations with Germany back on track after the damage caused by the war in Iraq.

Two of Mr Obama's advisers were in Berlin last week seeing if it will be possible for the candidate to speak at the Brandenburg Gate, which has new significance for an American candidate, since a new embassy officially opened there on 4 July. However, the government of Angela Merkel must walk a delicate line to avoid the appearance of favouring Mr Obama over John McCain a regular visitor to Germany.

For rolling comment on the US election visit: independent.co.uk/campaign08