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COLUMBUS, Ohio (Reuters) - Republican John McCain said on Thursday he would like to give a speech in Germany as U.S. president not as a White House candidate, taking a swipe at rival Barack Obama while the Democrat gave a major address in Berlin.
"I'd love to give a speech in Germany ... a political speech or a speech that maybe the German people would be interested in, but I'd much prefer to do it as president of the United States rather than as a candidate ... for the office of presidency," McCain told reporters in Ohio.
Standing in front of a store in a neighborhood known as German Village, McCain -- for whom foreign policy is considered a strength -- said he would focus on issues at home while his opponent traveled abroad.
"We're going to be campaigning across the heartland of America and talking about the issues that are challenging America today," he said.
Obama drew a crowd estimated by one local official at 200,000 in Berlin's Tiergarten Park, where he urged Europe to stand by the United States in bringing stability to Afghanistan and confronting other threats from climate change to nuclear proliferation.
Republicans have scoffed at Obama's high profile speech, which German media has compared to President John Kennedy's famous 1963 "Ich bin ein Berliner" address.
"Ich bin ein Hypocrite," the Republican party chided in a statement, criticizing Obama for what it called a lack of leadership on Afghanistan in a congressional committee he chairs. "Ich bin" means "I am" in German.
McCain, who had a bratwurst for lunch, said he already knew many of the European leaders with whom Obama was scheduled to hold talks on a trip designed to bolster the Illinois senator's foreign policy credentials.
"I have very good relations with Europe, many of the European leaders," McCain said, noting he had met several times with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and had visited with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
"I know them well. It's not my first meeting with them or with the leaders in Israel and the Palestinians," he said.
"I'm very happy that a lot of these new leaders in Europe, particularly in France and Germany, are much more pro-American than their predecessors were," he said, adding they had "common cause" in trying to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
The Arizona senator also confirmed he would meet with the Dalai Lama in Aspen, Colorado, on Friday and he called the exiled Tibetan leader a "transcendent" international role model.
"I have admired him and respected him for the efforts he's made for on behalf of freedom of the people of Tibet but also all over the world," McCain said.
Editing by David Wiessler