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Obama Speaks in Berlin,  McCain Focuses on Economic Issues at Home


Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama spoke before tens of thousands of people in the German capital of Berlin Thursday, the most dramatic moment yet in his tour of the Middle East and Europe. Obama continues his European tour in Paris today Friday. His international trip has received worldwide attention and left his Republican opponent, Senator John McCain, searching for ways to get his message out. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.

Senator Obama's speech had all the trappings of a presidential address, except for the fact that Obama won't even become the official Democratic nominee for president until next month.

"People of Berlin, people of the world," said Barack Obama. "This is our moment. This is our time."

Obama's speech in Berlin was billed as a highlight of an international trip that has already taken him to Afghanistan, Iraq, Jordan and Israel, a sort of introductory world tour for a man who might become the next president of the United States.

"We have made our share of mistakes, and there are times when our actions around the world have not lived up to our best intentions," he said. "But I also know how much I love America."

Democrats hope the trip will bolster public confidence in Obama's ability to handle foreign policy and national security issues, an area where the public seems to have more confidence in Obama's Republican opponent, Senator John McCain.

A statement from the McCain campaign said Obama took a premature victory lap in Berlin by proclaiming himself a citizen of the world, and it went on to say that the Republican candidate will continue to make his case to the American citizens who will decide the election.

McCain was asked about the Obama speech during a campaign stop in Ohio.

"I would love to give a speech in Germany, a political speech or a speech that maybe the German people would be interested in," McCain said. "But I would much prefer to do it as President of the United States."

The Berlin speech was also an opportunity for Obama to outline his own worldview and the type of foreign policy he would pursue if he wins the White House in November.

"People of Berlin and people of the world, the scale of our challenge is great," said Obama. "The road ahead will be long. But I come before you to say that we are heirs to a struggle for freedom. We are a people of improbable hope with an eye towards future, with resolve in our heart. Let us remember this history, and answer our destiny and remake the world once again."

Obama also made clear that human rights would be a top concern of his administration should he win the election.

"Will we extend our hand to the peoples in the forgotten corners of this world who yearn for lives marked by dignity and opportunity, security and justice? Will we lift the child in Bangladesh from poverty and shelter the refugee in Chad, and banish the scourge of AIDS in our time? Will we stand for the human rights of the dissident in Burma, the blogger in Iran or the voter in Zimbabwe? Will we give meaning to the words, never again in Darfur?" he asked.

Obama's Republican opponent, Senator John McCain, opted for a low-key campaign day in Ohio, apparently figuring it would be difficult to compete with the images of Obama addressing a huge crowd in Berlin.

The McCain campaign tried to focus on domestic issues as aide Nancy Pfotenhauer briefed reporters on the senator's plans to bring down high fuel prices, a key concern for voters in the latest public opinion polls.

"We want to bring your attention to the fact that Senator McCain is spending his time talking about how to solve the real problems that Americans are facing right now, most particularly today we are focused on the real problems that people are struggling with due to the high gas prices," she said.

Republicans have also complained that the extensive news media coverage of the Obama trip has been unfair and has overshadowed McCain's efforts to focus on domestic economic issues.

Meanwhile, the latest polls show the presidential race remains relatively close even with all the attention Obama is getting on his overseas trip.

A new NBC News Wall Street Journal poll has Obama leading McCain 47 to 41 percent. But the survey also found that 55 percent saw Obama as the riskier choice in the election, compared with 35 percent who thought McCain was riskier.

Recent polls in several key states, such as Colorado, Michigan and Minnesota also show McCain gaining on Obama.

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