Obama Reaches Out To The World

(AP)

President Obama delivered a speech before a few thousand in a sports arena in Strasbourg, France, on Friday -- but his real audience was clearly the entire world.

The event was billed as a town hall with French and German youth, but Mr. Obama began with a half hour address designed to improve America's image around the world.

Mr. Obama directly addressed the strain between America and Europe over the past several years, saying the relationship has drifted. He then sought to say that the reasons for that drift come from both sides of the Atlantic.

"In America, there's a failure to appreciate Europe's leading role in the world… there have been times where America's shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive," he said.

"But in Europe, there is an anti-Americanism that is at once casual, but can also be insidious. Instead of recognizing the good that America so often does in the world, there have been times where Europeans chose to blame America for much of what's bad," Mr. Obama said.


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Photo Essay: Obama travels to France and Germany for NATO Summit. (AP)

Mr. Obama added: "On both sides of the Atlantic, these attitudes have become all too common. They are not wise. They do not represent the truth."

"I've come to Europe this week to renew our partnership," he said.

In a nod to those who are blaming the U.S. for the global economic downturn, he admitted that the U.S. shares blame. But he added: "Every nation bears responsibility for what lies ahead."

Another one of the main headlines from the speech was his call for a world without nuclear weapons. He said his recently announced agreement with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to reduce both countries stockpiles was a first step in that process.

"Even with the Cold War now over, the spread of nuclear weapons or the theft of nuclear material could lead to the extermination of any city on the planet," Mr. Obama said.

Mr. Obama said he will address a more detailed strategy on nuclear nonproliferation on Sunday.


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In seeking to repair strained relations with Europeans leaders and citizens, Mr. Obama also specifically addressed policy conflicts with the Bush Administration.

On Guantanamo, he touted his decision to close the controversial prison within a year.

"Without equivocation that the United States does not and will not torture," he said.

And during the question and answer Mr. Obama also addressed the most contentious issue between the U.S. and Europe during the Bush presidency – the war in Iraq.

Mr. Obama said "we got sidetracked by Iraq" after the world came together in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

But he added that the U.S. still needs Europe's help to battle al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That will be the major focus of the NATO Summit he is attending today and tomorrow.

"We have not fully recovered that initial insight that we have a mutual interest in ensuring that organizations like al Qaeda cannot operate," the president said. "I think it is important for Europe to understand that even though I am president and George Bush is not president, al Qaeda is still a threat."

More Coverage Of Obama In France:

» Obama Keeps Calling On Americans In European Town Hall

» Sarkozy Says France Will Accept Guantanamo Detainee

» Obama Seeks World Without Nukes

» Obama To NATO: "We Want Strong Allies"

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