President will not attend anniversary of fall of the Berlin Wall

Friday, October 16, 2009
from the German magazine, Der Spiegel
via San Francisco Sentinel

President Barack Obama has shelved his plans to attend festivities marking the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will reportedly take his place at the Nov. 9 celebrations.

Germany is going to have to wait longer than expected for US President Barack Obama’s first official visit. Citing government sources in Berlin, Reuters reported on Friday that Obama will not attend the anniversary festivities marking two decades since the fall of the Berlin Wall. The event will take place on Nov. 9 — just two days before Obama embarks on a long-planned trip to Asia on Nov. 11.

According to the German television channel n-tv, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will stand in for the president. It is considered unlikely that her husband, the former President Bill Clinton, will accompany her.

Berlin is going all out for the anniversary, with such luminaries as Kofi Annan, Mikhail Gorbachev and Lech Walesa expected to be in attendance. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is pushing hard to complete ongoing coalition negotiations soon so that her government is fully formed in time for the festivities.

Despite Obama’s absence, however, Merkel will get some face time with the US president in early November. She is planning to travel to Washington and will be addressing a joint session of US Congress on Nov. 3.

Obama has not visited Berlin since taking power. He was in Germany briefly in June, when he made stops in Dresden and at the Buchenwald concentration camp memorial. It was during that trip that Merkel extended the invitation for Obama to help Germany celebrate the fall of the Wall.

Merkel’s government expressed understanding with Obama’s scheduling difficulties, Reuters reported. Obama’s first state visit to Berlin is now expected to take place in 2010

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