Obama begins European leg of tour

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Presidential hopeful Barack Obama arrived in Berlin today amid high expectations for the European leg of his overseas trip.

It is the first stop on a tour that will also take Mr Obama to France and Britain in an effort to improve his foreign credentials as he campaigns against John McCain.

Mr Obama arrived in the German capital following visits to Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel and Jordan.

While in Berlin, Mr Obama will meet with German leaders, including Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

He will cap his day with an open-air speech before an expected crowd of at least 100,000 that his campaign has described as a "substantive address on US-European relations."

Ms Merkel has said that she planned to talk about climate change and global free trade with Mr Obama and made clear that Germany will stand by its refusal to send combat troops to southern Afghanistan.

Mr Obama and Ms Merkel shook hands and exchanged small talk just outside her office before heading behind closed doors for their private meeting.

Mr Obama's speech in front of the Tiergarten's 225-foot Victory Column has symbolic value because several US presidents - including John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton - made significant addresses in Berlin.

Around 700 police have been deployed during Mr Obama's visit, which lasts until Friday morning.