Page last updated at 18:37 GMT, Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Shimon Peres visits Berlin amid tight security

By Tristana Moore
BBC News, Berlin

A German police armoured vehicle at the Pariser Platz in Berlin, 25 January 2010
Berliners have had to put up with traffic jams and road closures since Peres's arrival on Monday

It is a sign of the times that when the Israeli president makes a state visit these days, unprecedented security measures are put in place.

So ever since Shimon Peres arrived in the German capital on Monday, Berliners have had to put up with road closures and traffic jams in the centre of the city - these road-blocks will be in place until Thursday.

Berlin's Taggespiegel daily newspaper said Shimon Peres "was the most endangered political leader in the world after the US president".

On Tuesday morning, Grunewald train station in a leafy suburb of Berlin resembled a fortress as dozens of German and Israeli officers were deployed.

Across the city, 3,000 police officers are on duty.

Grunewald memorial

Mr Peres will be in Berlin for Holocaust Memorial Day on Wednesday, which this year marks the 65th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp.

On Tuesday, along with German President Horst Koehler and a delegation of Holocaust survivors and students, Mr Peres visited Grunewald station, which has become a poignant memorial to the six million Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust.

Shimon Peres, left, and Horst Koehler at the Track 17 memorial, 26 January 2010
The infamous Track 17 is now a poignant memorial to those who died

At a wreath-laying ceremony at the infamous Track 17, Mr Peres paid tribute to the 55,000 Berliner Jews who were forced from their homes and deported to Nazi concentration camps during World War II.

It was from Grunewald station that thousands of Jews were sent to their deaths at the camps of Theresienstadt, Riga, and Lodz.

A plaque and a memorial mark the spot where Jews from Berlin were loaded onto trains from 1941 until 1945.

On Tuesday, a group of five Holocaust survivors lit candles at the site while Mr Peres and Mr Koehler lit the sixth candle, representing the six million Jews who were killed by the Nazis.

Pressure increasing

Later in the day, Mr Peres held talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel at her office in Berlin.

Shimon Peres and Angela Merkel in Berlin, 26 January 2010
The German chancellor used the visit to ramp up pressure on Iran

At a news conference, the German chancellor issued a pointed warning to Iran over its nuclear programme, saying Germany remained committed to a diplomatic solution, but Mrs Merkel said further sanctions would be considered as the next step.

"We have shown a lot of patience," she said. "Time is running out."

For his part, Shimon Peres said: "We need a clear and hard position against Iran."

And he urged the international community to "dismantle the threat to world peace which is being articulated in the Iranian regime".

With the Israeli president in town, the German government is ratcheting up the pressure on Tehran.

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