While In Germany, Obama Will Honor WW II Vets
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Renee Montagne.
Now that President Obama has moved on to Europe, he's thinking more about war than peace. In Germany today, he's visiting wounded American soldiers, and he'll be looking back at an earlier time: World War II - first with a visit to a German concentration camp, and then tomorrow, in France, he'll commemorate the terrible sacrifices made on D-Day 65 years ago. In a press conference this morning with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, he spoke again of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
President BARACK OBAMA: Ultimately, the United States can't force peace upon the parties. But what we've tried to do is to clear away some of the misunderstandings so that we can at least begin to have frank dialogue.
MONTAGNE: NPR's Don Gonyea is in Germany with the president, and we caught up with him as he drove away from that press conference. Good morning.
DON GONYEA: Good morning, Renee.
MONTAGNE: And after that much-awaited speech in Cairo, Don, what is the president expecting to accomplish now that he's in Europe?
GONYEA: Well, there are two reasons he's here in Europe. He describes this as the part of the trip where he will remember, commemorate, and honor those who fought in World War II. Of course, he'll be on the beaches at Normandy on D-Day, on Saturday, in France, but first to stop in Germany where, as you mentioned, he'll be at the Buchenwald concentration camp. Also today, he's in Dresden, which is a city that was destroyed by Allied British and U.S. aerial firebombing in World War II in 1945, February, and has been rebuilt, many of these buildings reconstructed from pieces of the rubble.
But, in addition to that, anytime he meets with the German chancellor and the French president, there are a lot of issues, from Iran to the Middle East, to climate change, to the economy. All of those pressing issues are being discussed here.
MONTAGNE: Well, let's talk about that in regard to Chancellor Merkel. What do you expect them to talk about?
GONYEA: They are actually discussing his speech in Cairo yesterday. And they were talking about how to move forward. They certainly both have interests in the issue of Iran and the fear on both of their parts that Iran is really pushing fast to become a nuclear power. They're trying to work with other European leaders to prevent that from happening. But they're also talking about the troubled auto industry in each country - Opel, of course, based in Germany along with obviously other prominent automakers.
The U.S. dealing with its situation with Chrysler and General Motors, so that topic came up. But we're told that they also spent a good bit of time talking about climate change and the way to move forward there and maybe find some hard targets for the world to start hitting.
MONTAGNE: Germany, of course, being a great ally of the United States - what's the relationship between these two leaders of these two countries?
GONYEA: There has been a lot of talk, especially in the German press this week, that this is not a very good relationship between these two leaders and that may be U.S.-German relations have suffered as a result. President Obama, at a press conference, called that wild speculation. And he said to a German reporter, a television correspondent, just stop it. It is not true. It is an outstanding relationship, something that was echoed by Chancellor Merkel. But it is clear that they don't share the same kind of warm relationship she had with former president Bush.
MONTAGNE: And Don, finally, the president tomorrow will be commemorating the 65th anniversary of D-Day in France. Talk to us about that.
GONYEA: He'll be with President Sarkozy. He noted today at the press conference that so many of the veterans are in the, you know, in the sunset of their years. So it's really important on this 65th anniversary to be there to recall what was done on that day 65 years ago. And that, coupled with the visit to with Buchenwald, the concentration camp, he said it's a demonstration of how people need to show humanity to one another and what happens when they don't.
MONTAGNE: NPR's White House correspondent, Don Gonyea, is traveling with the president. Thanks very much.
GONYEA: Thank you.
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