Obama begins European tour with visit to Germany

June 5th, 2009 - 5:29 am ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama Dresden, June 5 (DPA) US President Barack Obama arrived in the eastern German city of Dresden Thursday evening for a 24-hour visit that will see him meet Chancellor Angela Merkel and tour
the former Nazi concentration camp of Buchenwald.

During his second visit to Germany in 10 weeks, Obama will also view some of Dresden’s cultural highlights and visit a US military hospital to meet American soldiers wounded in combat.

The president flew in from Cairo, where he gave a landmark address to the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims, stressing the need for peace in the Middle East and urging Iran to open a dialogue with the West on its controversial nuclear programme.

Obama made no statement when he arrived shortly before 9 p.m. (1900 GMT). From the airport, he was driven in the presidential limousine to a baroque palace in the centre of town, populated for the night with White House staff.

Efforts to press ahead with the Middle East peace process will figure prominently in talks between the president and his host Merkel Friday morning. The talks will take place in the Gruenes Gewoelbe (Green Vault), a museum that contains the largest collection of treasures in Europe.

Obama will also pay a brief visit to the Frauenkirche church, which was destroyed by Allied bombing in World War II and later rebuilt with the help of donations from around the world.

As well as touring Dresden, the president will pay his respects at Buchenwald, located near the city of Weimar in Thuringia state. There, the two leaders plan to meet Holocaust survivors, notably Jewish writer and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel.

Obama’s great-uncle, Charles Payne, was among the soldiers who liberated a subsidiary camp of Buchenwald April 5, 1945.

In addition to the Middle East, Obama and Merkel are expected to discuss climate issues, the global economic crisis, German involvement in the NATO mission to Afghanistan and the nuclear threat posed by North Korea and Iran.

Presidential advisors said holding the meeting in Dresden showed respect for Merkel, who has reportedly charmed Obama with stories of her life in former East Germany.

The president will also pay a visit to injured American soldiers at the US military hospital in Landstuhl, undergoing treatment after tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.

From Germany, Obama travels to France where he will attend ceremonies in Normandy marking the 65th anniversary of the Allied D-Day landings.

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