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Queen opens embassy in Berlin

It stands where old one was destroyed during WWII

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BERLIN — Britain's Queen Elizabeth II hailed Berlin's re-emergence as a European capital Tuesday as she opened a new British Embassy on the spot where the old one was reduced to rubble during World War II.

Speaking at a festive ceremony in the atrium of the sparkling, modern new building, the queen said the end of Berlin's east-west divide should serve as inspiration for bringing eastern European nations into the fold of Europe.

"We have before us a further European task, that is to expand the European Union so that those who for over 50 years were artificially excluded from the mainstream of European life can soon rejoin it, so that Europe as a whole, like Germany, can be without division," the queen said.

The queen, who laid the building's cornerstone on her last visit to Berlin in 1992, became the first British monarch to open an embassy. "Berlin will no longer be an outpost but a geographic center of the continent," she declared. "Where formerly west and east confronted each other, now they can come together here."

Most countries that had embassies in the old West German capital of Bonn are moving back to reunified Berlin after the German government made the trek last year. Britain is getting a jump on the United States and France, both of which have embassy sites nearby.

Cheers went up from a few hundred onlookers, including schoolchildren waving Union Jacks, as the queen and her husband, Prince Philip, arrived at the embassy.

"I think it's great that the queen is here," said Kurt Benien, a German tourist from Bremen. "This would never have happened if the Wall were still up."

Two 10-year-old girls presented the queen with flowers and the traditional "moving-in" gift of bread and salt as the British military's Royal Tank Regiment Cambrai Band struck up a song.

The queen then headed into the open-air embassy courtyard to chat with staff before taking a tour of the building. Accompanying her were British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook and his German counterpart, Joschka Fischer.

After the ceremony, which included the unveiling of a plaque noting her visit, the queen mingled with German and British dignitaries at a reception.