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ich bin ein berliner

President Barack Obama has used his public speech in Berlin to propose cuts of one-third in American and Russian nuclear arsenals.

Speaking at the Brandenburg Gate, Barack Obama called for reductions in the number of tactical warheads deployed in Europe.

The US president also pledged to boost efforts to close the Guantanamo Bay detention centre and tackle climate change.

Earlier, Barack Obama met Chancellor Angela Merkel, who criticized the broad scope of US surveillance programmes.

This is Barack Obama’s first visit to Berlin as American president.

His address to students and government officials at the Brandenburg Gate, which once divided East and West Germany, comes almost 50 years after President John F. Kennedy’s celebrated “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech.

In a speech which centred on a theme of freedoms, Barack Obama said the gate was a symbol that “no wall can stand against the yearnings for justice… that burn in the human heart”.

“Today’s threats are not as stark as they were half a century ago, but the struggle for freedom and security and human dignity, that struggle goes on,” he said.

“We may no longer live in fear of global annihilation but so long as nuclear weapons exist, we are not truly safe,” calling for intensified efforts to limit their spread.

Barack Obama said he had determined that the US could ensure its own and its allies security and maintain a credible deterrent “while reducing our deployed strategic nuclear weapons by up to one third”.

“I intend to seek negotiated cuts with Russia to move beyond Cold War nuclear postures,” he said.

Under the New Start treaty which the US signed with Russia in 2010, each side is allowed a maximum of 1,550 warheads and no more than 700 deployed launchers.

The new limit on delivery systems is less than half the ceiling of 1,600 specified in the original Start treaty from 1991.

Barack Obama spoke at Brandenburg Gate 50 years after JFK's "Ich bin ein Berliner" speech

Barack Obama spoke at Brandenburg Gate 50 years after JFK’s “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech

Barack Obama added that the US would also work alongside NATO allies to seek “bold reductions” in the use of tactical weapons in Europe, and would also seek to forge a new international framework for the use of peaceful nuclear power.

He said the US rejected the nuclearisation of countries like North Korea and Iran.

Shortly before Barack Obama spoke, Russian President Vladimir Putin was quoted as saying that Moscow “cannot allow the balance of the system of strategic deterrence to be disturbed or the effectiveness of our nuclear force to be decreased”.

A senior foreign policy adviser to Vladimir Putin said other nuclear-armed countries would have also have to reduce their stockpiles for such a plan to work.

“The situation now is not like in the 1960s and 1970s when only the United States and the Soviet Union held talks on reducing nuclear arms,” Yury Ushakov told a briefing in Moscow.

“Now we need to look more broadly… and increase the circle of participants in possible contacts on this matter.”

Barack Obama said that for the US, moving beyond the Cold War “mindset of perpetual war” also meant redoubling efforts to close the US prison camp at Guantanamo, tightly controlling the use of new technology like drones and “balancing the pursuit of security with the protection of privacy”.

In her morning meetings with Barack Obama, Chancellor Angela Merkel had criticized PRISM, the recently exposed US phone and internet surveillance programmes, saying: “We do see the need for gathering information, but there is a need for due diligence and proportionality.”

The chancellor grew up in Communist East Germany, where police surveillance was widespread.

Angela Merkel acknowledged that the internet “enables enemies of a free liberal order to use and abuse and bring threats to all of us”, but “an equitable balance must be struck”.

Barack Obama said the monitoring applied within narrow limits to do with national security. It had detected 50 potential threats and saved many lives, he emphasized.

“This is not a situation where we simply go into the internet and begin searching any way we want,” the US president told a news conference in Berlin.

Barack Obama’s visit comes after G8 leaders backed calls for holding Syrian peace talks in Geneva “as soon as possible”.

Speaking earlier, Barack Obama said the US was confident that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons during the 26-month-old conflict, but refused to spell out what aid might go the rebels.

“I cannot and will not comment on specifics on our programmes related to the Syrian opposition,” Barack Obama said, stressing his support for a political transition.

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The presidents of the EU’s three main institutions have collected the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway.

The EU was awarded the prize for its role in uniting the continent after two world wars.

At the ceremony there was applause when the leaders of France and Germany stood up, holding hands.

Critics say the award is inappropriate. They point out that the eurozone crisis has exposed deep divisions in the 27-nation bloc.

Most of Europe’s national leaders were at the event, but not the UK’s David Cameron.

The British prime minister’s deputy, Nick Clegg – a longstanding advocate of the European project – represented the UK at the ceremony.

Nobel committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland told the audience that in the current economic crisis “the political framework in which the union is rooted is more important than ever”.

“We must stand together, we have collective responsibility,” he said, warning of a risk of new nationalism in Europe.

The prize was received jointly by European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and European Parliament President Martin Schulz. Herman Van Rompuy and Jose Manuel Barroso then gave a joint acceptance speech, in two parts.

The presidents of the EU's three main institutions have collected the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo

The presidents of the EU’s three main institutions have collected the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo

Herman Van Rompuy paid tribute to the post-war leaders of France and Germany who had forged the EU by uniting their economic interests.

He praised “the EU’s secret weapon – an unrivalled way of binding our interests so tightly that war becomes impossible”.

“It is better to fight around the table than on a battlefield,” he said, quoting Jean Monnet, one of the EU’s founders.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel sat next to French President Francois Hollande at the ceremony in Oslo City Hall.

Herman Van Rompuy said the economic crisis was fuelling “the return of long-forgotten faultlines and stereotypes”, but added: “Even such tensions don’t take us back to the darkness of the past.”

He ended by adapting the famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” quote from the late President John F. Kennedy during the Cold War.

He said he hoped future generations would “say with pride <<Ich bin ein Europaer>>, <<Je suis fier d’etre Europeen>>, <<I’m proud to be European>>.”

Four young Europeans, selected through an open EU competition, were in the delegation with equal status alongside the politicians.

The European Commission, which drafts EU laws, says the Nobel Prize money – about 930,000 euros ($1.2 million) – “will be allocated to children that are most in need”.

There has been a barrage of criticism – from Euroskeptics, peace activists and former winners of the prize.

Many of them question whether the EU should be given such an honor at a time when record unemployment and tough austerity policies, supported by European institutions, are causing serious social tensions in several member states.

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