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June 5, 2009 at 5:11 PM   |   Comments

Obama, Merkel discuss Mideast, climate

DRESDEN, Germany, June 5 (UPI) -- The Buchenwald concentration camp in Germany is the "ultimate rebuke" to Holocaust deniers and reminds others to dispel the lies, U.S. President Obama said.

"To this day, there are those who insist that the Holocaust never happened -- a denial of fact and truth that is baseless and ignorant and hateful," Obama said Friday at the camp with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Eli Weisel. "This place is the ultimate rebuke to such thoughts, a reminder of our duty to confront those who would tell lies about our history."

The former concentration camp was where about 56,000 people, mainly Jews, were worked as slaves or killed in gas chambers during World War II.

"This place teaches us that we must be ever-vigilant about the spread of evil in our own time, that we must reject the false comfort that others' suffering is not our problem," Obama said, "and commit ourselves to resisting those who would subjugate others to serve their own interests.

Words are inadequate to convey what is felt when seeing "the suffering inflicted so cruelly upon so many people" at concentration and extermination camp during the second world war, Merkel said.

"We, the Germans, are faced with the agonizing question how and why, how could this happen, how could Germany wreak such havoc in Europe and the world?" she said. "It is therefore incumbent upon us Germans to show an unshakable resolve to do everything we can so that something like this never happens again."

Weisel, who was liberated from Buchenwald, said the concentration camp provided a memory "of bringing people together."

"Memory must bring people together, rather than set them apart ... not to sow anger in our hearts, but on the contrary, a sense of solidarity with all those who need us," he said.

Obama and Merkel conducted bilateral talks on a range of subjects before visiting Buchenwald.

Obama also is in Europe to mark the 65th anniversary of D-Day, June 6, 1944, when Allies forces invaded Europe in the campaign to defeat Adolf Hitler.


Mitchell to return to Mideast next week

DRESDEN, Germany, June 5 (UPI) -- Special envoy George Mitchell will go to the Middle East next week to try to build momentum for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks, U.S. President Obama said.

Obama on Thursday reached out to the Muslim world in a speech at Cairo. Meeting Friday in Germany with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Obama said during a news conference Mitchell was returning to the region "to follow up with each of the individual parties on a whole host of negotiation points and potential confidence-building measures that can be taken."

Obama met with both Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Washington, discussing how to overcome issues that are inhibiting the talks. During his speech at Cairo University, Obama said Israeli and Palestinian leaders, and leaders of other Arab nations must work together to achieve peace in the region.

"The reason we are doing that is because not only had talks ground to a halt, but there was a sense that all sides were getting so dug in and so cynical that you might reach a point where you could never get the parties back at the table," Obama said in Dresden, Germany. "And I think given what we've (the United States) done so far, we've at least created the space, the atmosphere, in which talks can restart."


Doomed jet faced airspeed data problems

RIO DE JANEIRO, June 5 (UPI) -- Aircraft manufacturer Airbus said the systems on Air France Flight 477 were providing inconsistent airspeed data before the jet disappeared over the Atlantic.

Airbus said automated messages from the flight suggest pilots on board the doomed aircraft received contradictory airspeed information before the Air France flight from Brazil to Paris disappeared above the Atlantic Ocean, CNN reported Friday.

Greg Feith, a former National Transportation Safety Board senior air safety investigator, told CNN such inconsistent data could pose significant problems for pilots.

"If (airspeed indicators) are malfunctioning, it can give a false read into the cockpit that can be misinterpreted," Feith said.

Officials suspect Flight 477 may have been flying at the wrong speed when it entered a storm while traveling above the Atlantic Ocean this week.

France announced Friday it is dispatching a nuclear submarine to help in the search for the plane's data recorders, the BBC reported. Defense Minister Herve Morin said the sub is equipped with surveillance devices.

Feith said officials searching the flight's suspected crash site in the Atlantic Ocean should work quickly as ocean currents and decreasing battery power on locator units will only hinder such efforts.

"The batteries on these locator devices attached to the black boxes have a limited life span -- just 30 days," he said.

"The longer time goes on, the further away from the actual crash site the debris floats."


Plane in near miss with military jet

DALAMAN, Turkey, June 5 (UPI) -- Passengers on a Turkey to Belfast, Northern Ireland, flight said the plane was involved in a near miss with a military jet shortly after takeoff.

One of the passengers, who asked not to be identified, said the incident took place minutes after the plane departed from Dalaman, Turkey, The Belfast Telegraph reported Friday.

"We plunged suddenly for about 30 seconds and the plane went onto its side," he said. "Everybody on the plane was screaming and shouting, grown men were crying. It was terrifying. Everybody thought they were dead."

The passenger said the pilot came on the intercom after the plane was righted.

"He said he was sorry and he was sure our hearts were in our mouths, but the problem was an unidentified flying object. Then he came back and said it was a Turkish military plane and said, 'Had I not taken the dramatic action we have just taken, we wouldn't be here talking about it,'" the passenger said.

A spokesman for Thomson Holidays, which organized the Skyservice Airlines flight, said the incident is being investigated by the airline and Turkish authorities.

"We can confirm that the captain of a flight operated on our behalf by our partner Skyservice Airlines from Dalaman to Belfast on 1 June, initiated avoiding action to maintain normal separation from a suspected military aircraft," the spokesman said. "There were no reported injuries and the flight continued as scheduled to Belfast."


Slain doctor's funeral to face protest

WICHITA, Kan., June 5 (UPI) -- Members of a Kansas church will be on hand at the funeral of slain late-term abortion doctor George Tiller to offer religious warnings, a protester says.

Shirley Phelps of Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., said 18 members of the church will be on hand in Wichita, Kan., when a funeral service for Tiller is held Saturday at College Hill United Methodist Church, USA Today reported Friday.

The comment from Phelps comes after other abortion opponents said protesting Tiller's funeral would be ill-advised.

"It would be morally reprehensible if anybody shows up" to protest, Operation Rescue President Troy Newman said. Newman's group previously protested at Tiller's abortion clinic.

Tiller was shot and killed May 31 at the Reformation Lutheran Church in Wichita and 51-year-old Scott Roeder is facing first-degree murder charges in relation to the deadly incident.

Meanwhile, College Hill United senior pastor John Martin told USA Today his church agreed to host Saturday's funeral service for Tiller in order to help his survivors.

We want to support the family in any way we can," Martin said. "The mood is still a lot of grief and pain at losing Dr. Tiller."

© 2009 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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