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U.N. receives Berlin Wall section

President of the German Bundestag, Wolfgang Thierse, left, shakes hands with Annan during the gift ceremony
President of the German Bundestag, Wolfgang Thierse, left, shakes hands with Annan during the gift ceremony  

UNITED NATIONS -- Germany has given the United Nations a piece of the Berlin Wall as a symbol of hope that barriers between people -- like the world's Cold War division -- can be broken down.

It was unveiled in the garden of U.N. headquarters in New York on Thursday by Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the president of Germany's Bundestag, Wolfgang Thierse.

The large wall fragment -- once part of the 3.6-meter-high (12-foot) wall that divided east and west sectors of Berlin between 1961 and 1989 -- was decorated with a painting of a man and a woman embracing across the top of the wall.

Thierse, who was born in the former East Germany, was quoted by The Associated Press as saying: "We owe it above all to the people whose protest against the wall and opposition to being confined within the borders of East Germany cost them their lives."

He added that more than 230 people died trying to cross into the West at the wall, which had shaped his own life "in profound and painful ways."

It was important the U.N. had a piece of the wall, he said, to keep alive the memory of the Cold War.

Annan said the fall of the wall "helped to liberate the entire international community" as the U.N.'s efforts to create world peace and security were hindered by the ideological rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union.

It was appropriate that a piece of the wall would be at the U.N., Annan told more than 50 guests at the ceremony.

Standing in front of the colourfully painted concrete fragment, he noted: "It is striking that something that loomed so big in our imagination turns out to be so thin."

"Perhaps that too holds a lesson for us: the lesson that divisions in the human community are not so insurmountable as we feared; that gaps of misunderstanding and material well-being can be bridged; and that we can, like the couple depicted here, join hands and unite for a better world."

Unfortunately the expectations of "a golden age of peace" after the wall's fall and the end of the Cold War had not materialised Thierse said, referring to recent terrorist attacks and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

He said the Berlin Wall fragment should be "a reminder to us all that lasting peace can only be achieved if we overcome division and borders and boundaries," and that takes "patience, persistence, determination, and friends and allies."

The Berlin Wall was built in August 1961 to stop the flight of East Germans to the West. As a result of peaceful revolution in East Germany against communist rule it fell on November 1, 1989.


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• Berlin

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