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Obama Pledges New U.S. Relations With Europe

President Obama pledged Friday to help redefine the role of NATO, acknowledging that relations between Washington and some European members of the alliance had drifted and gotten "sidetracked by Iraq."

Speaking at a joint town hall-style meeting in Baden-Baden, Germany, with Chancellor Angela Merkel, Obama said a new outline is needed for NATO in the 21st century.

"I don't come bearing grand designs," Obama said in response to a question from the audience. "I am here to listen, to share ideas and to jointly, as one of many NATO allies, shape our future vision."


Earlier, in Strasbourg, France, Obama opened another town-hall session by saying he had a long-term goal of "a world without nuclear weapons." He said he would outline details in a speech in Prague on Sunday, at the tail end of his five-nation, eight-day European trip.

In Baden-Baden, the president said the trans-Atlantic alliance was the most successful in modern history and that although it had come together after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, "we got sidetracked by Iraq."

Obama said bitter feelings that were generated by Iraq needed to be put aside because "al-Qaida is still a threat."

The president also sought to reassure European skeptics that the strategy to fight and win in Afghanistan could be reshaped for success.

He said Europe should not expect America to shoulder the burden of sending in combat troops by itself. In a reference to the Taliban and al-Qaida using Pakistani territory as a sanctuary from the Afghan battlefield, Obama said: "We cannot be effective in Afghanistan unless we have addressed the problems across the border."


But the president does not envision NATO troops in Pakistan, which must act "more effectively to root out the safe havens for terrorists."

Fresh from the G-20 summit in London, the president also spoke about the global economic crisis, saying he was "very proud" of the work they had done but that the problem required unprecedented cooperation.

Speaking on the same day that the latest jobless figures in the United States were released, showing the U.S. unemployment rate at a quarter-century high of 8.5 percent, Obama said the United States shares blame for the crisis, but that "every nation bears responsibility for what lies ahead — especially now."

"None of us can isolate ourselves from a global market," he said. "If we do not have concerted action, then we will have collective failure."

In his Strasbourg speech, Obama said the nonproliferation was just as important now as during the Cold War, because "the spread of nuclear weapons or the theft of nuclear material could lead to the extermination of any city on the planet."

From NPR staff and wire service reports

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