Clinton praises Germany on Berlin Wall tour

AP News
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Posted: Nov 09, 2009 7:24 AM

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton congratulated Germans on the 20-year anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall at a meeting Monday with Angela Merkel, Germany's first chancellor from the former communist East.

"I am delighted to be here in Berlin, the city that meant so much, not only to the German people, but to the European and the American people and the world," Clinton said at the Chancellory.

"I congratulate the chancellor, not only on the very well deserved occasion here, but on the work that she and her government are doing here. It is an honor to be representing the United States."

At the U.S. Embassy next to the Brandenburg Gate, Clinton told embassy staffers, "It is such a great personal privilege to be joined with the German people and people throughout Europe and the world to celebrate this occasion."

"Now, we have to turn our attention to the challenges of the 21st century," she said. "A wall, a physical wall, may have come down but there are other walls that exist that we have to overcome and we will be working together to accomplish that."

Later, Clinton walked through the historic gate to inspect one of a thousand giant Styrofoam dominos that have been set up along the route of the wall to be toppled in a giant chain later Monday, symbolizing the collapse of the East-West division.

Clinton met with students from a high school located in what was once East Berlin who created the domino with help from the U.S. Embassy. She looked on approvingly as the students explained the meaning of the painted design, a pile of packed luggage behind an old East German Trabant car heading out of darkness toward sunshine and a rainbow with a white dove overhead.

"It's a new beginning," one student told her.

"I think it's very clever, with the packed bags, the baggage ... very impressive," Clinton replied. "The light breaking through the dark."

The secretary, however, was able to admire only one side of the domino.

U.S. officials had discretely placed a sign declaring the embassy's sponsorship of the project in front of the domino's other side, which featured the ample, naked back side of a female "Angel of Hope."

Crowds gathered at the gate in the dreary weather clamored for a glimpse of Clinton who smiled and waved as she toured another dozen or so dominos set up along the route of the former wall.

Twenty years after the collapse of the wall that divided East and West Berlin, Clinton said Sunday at an earlier event, the hard work that went into ending the Cold War must be channeled to meet fresh challenges, including the fights against extremism and climate change.

As the Obama administration looks to often reluctant European allies to bolster their NATO forces in Afghanistan, Clinton said Monday's commemoration of Nov. 9, 1989, the night "when history pierced the concrete and concertina wire," must look forward and not back.

"Our history did not end the night the wall came down, it began anew," she told a group of U.S. and European dignitaries while accepting a Freedom Award on behalf of the American people from The Atlantic Council, a group that promotes trans-Atlantic ties.

Clinton praised U.S.-European collaboration on ending the world financial crisis as well as steps to cooperate on global warming. She also hailed NATO security operations, from Afghanistan to fighting piracy off the coast of Somalia.

But she said the spirit of the Berlin Wall's destruction _ the symbolic end to the Cold War _ had to be reinforced.