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Presidential candidate Barack Obama spoke at the “Victory Column” in Berlin’s Tiergarten park in front of thousands of Germans and tourists in his only formal address during his week-long foreign tour. He called on Europe to stand by the United States in bringing stability to Afghanistan and confronting other threats from climate change to nuclear proliferation.
Relations between the United States and Germany reached a post-war low under former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who strongly opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq. He said Germany would “not click its heels” and follow President Bush into war — a position that tapped into wells of German pacifism but infuriated Bush. But Chancellor Angela Merkel, who grew up behind the Wall in the communist East, has worked hard to repair ties with the U.S. and has emerged as one of Bush’s closest allies in Europe.
Obama and Merkel met for the first time on Thursday and touched on Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Middle East peace, climate change and the global economy during their talk.
A Pew Research Center poll showed Germans favor Obama over John McCain by a 49 point margin. But some German officials have said Obama risks disappointing Europeans because their expectations are so high.
Presidential candidates John McCain and Hillary Clinton want to suspend the gas tax for the summer to offer drivers some relief from record fuel prices. President Bush said this week that he was willing to consider a fuel tax holiday.
Barack Obama opposes the idea, saying it would not amount to much. House Democratic leaders have also shown little support for suspending the gas tax. Some experts say that a gas tax holiday wouldn’t help drivers much if service stations don’t pass on the savings to consumers.