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Clinton urges action against global threats

Uses Berlin Wall’s 20th anniversary of fall as impetus

Hillary Rodham Clinton, with Henry Kissinger, accepted the Freedom Award from the Atlantic Council yesterday. Hillary Rodham Clinton, with Henry Kissinger, accepted the Freedom Award from the Atlantic Council yesterday. (Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters)
By Matthew Lee
Associated Press / November 9, 2009

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BERLIN - Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton urged Europeans and Americans yesterday to see the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall as a call to action against new global threats.

On the eve of celebrations marking 20 years since the collapse of the wall that divided East and West Berlin, Clinton said the hard work that went into ending the Cold War must be channeled to meet new 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 today’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 US 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.

The moment the festivities begin “should be a call to action, not just a commemoration of past actions,’’ Clinton said. “That call should spur us to continue our cooperation and look for new ways that we can meet the challenges that freedom faces now.’’

“We owe it to ourselves and to those who yearn for the same freedoms that are enjoyed and even taken for granted in Berlin today,’’ she said.

Clinton praised US-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.

“We need to form an even stronger partnership to bring down the walls of the 21st century and to confront those who hide behind them: suicide bombers, those who murder and maim girls whose only wish is to go to school, leaders who chose their own fortune over the fortune of their people.’’

Clinton will lead the US delegation in today’s ceremonies in Berlin. Her visit to Europe and Asia also will focus on nuclear impasses with Iran and North Korea.

Other US foreign policy veterans at yesterday’s event included former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and ex-national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski.

Germans will mark the anniversary today with a memorial service for the 136 people killed trying to cross over the divide from 1961 to 1989, as well as candlelight vigils and music by Beethoven and Bon Jovi. A thousand towering plastic foam dominoes will be placed along the wall’s route and tipped over.

On a cold night 20 years ago, people danced atop the wall, arms raised in victory.