German row over Obama speech plan
Mr Obama’s team said several Berlin sites were considered for a speech
A leading German politician is the latest to criticise a tentative plan by Barack Obama to speak at Berlin’s historic Brandenburg Gate.
Erwin Huber, the leader of one of the main governing parties, said the Democratic White House hopeful had played no part in German reunification.
Chancellor Angela Merkel earlier said it was “a bit odd” that Mr Obama should speak at the Cold War landmark.
Mr Obama is to visit Europe and the Middle East in late July.
His campaign team said the Brandenburg Gate was one of several locations they had inquired about as the venue for a speech.
“Obama didn’t do anything for German unification,” Mr Huber said.
“That’s not a criticism, but as a result there is no reason to grant him such a privilege,” he told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper.
Mr Huber is the head of the Christian Social Union (CSU), the sister party to Mrs Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union. The leader of the CSU traditionally plays a prominent role on the national political scene in Germany.
Mr Obama’s suggestion has created a political row in Germany.
Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, of the centre-left Social Democrats, has welcomed the idea of Mr Obama speaking at the gate.
Mr Steinmeier and Mrs Merkel are likely to face each other in an election next year.
Berlin city officials have also said they would be delighted if Mr Obama spoke at the Brandenburg Gate. They would have the ultimate say over whether to grant him permission.
Mrs Merkel said earlier in the week that she would not like to see the historical landmark used for “electioneering”.
But a spokesman for the chancellor said “we are confident that we will reach a mutual and good solution which does justice to the interests of all involved”.
Her office, meanwhile, has denied media reports that the White House put pressure on German officials to reject the speech plan.
The Brandenburg Gate became a symbol of Germany’s division – and later reunification – when it was cut off by the Berlin Wall that East Germany’s Communist leaders built in the 1960s.
It was the backdrop for a famous speech by former US President Ronald Reagan in 1987, when he called on the Soviet Union to tear down the Berlin Wall.
Several other US presidents, including John F Kennedy and Bill Clinton, have delivered major speeches in Berlin.
Obama really is turning out to an embarrassment…