WASHINGTON– Vice President Joe Biden leaves for Germany today to urge stronger allied cooperation to confront mutual security and economic challenges, White House officials announced today.

Biden will lead the U.S. delegation to the 45th Munich Conference on Security Policy, frequently referred to as the “Wehrkunde Conference.” The annual gathering brings together government officials and foreign and defense policy experts to discuss trans-Atlantic security issues.

James L. Jones Jr., President Barack Obama’s national security advisor; Army Gen. David Petraeus, commander of U.S. Central Command; and Richard Holbrooke, Obama’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, also are slated to attend.

The vice president will emphasize during his keynote address tomorrow and in bilateral meetings with foreign leaders the need for strong partnerships to meet common challenges, according to a White House statement released today.

Biden also will urge stronger cooperation among U.S. allies to confront post-Cold War and post-9/11 security and economic challenges.

Central issues are likely to include ways to improve NATO-Russian relations, Iran’s and North Korea’s nuclear programs and gaps within the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.

During last year’s Wehrkunde Conference, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates emphasized in his keynote speech that the war in Afghanistan is Europe’s war, too, and called on the allies to contribute more to the effort.

Biden’s schedule will be chock-full throughout this year’s three-day conference. He’s slated for bilateral meetings tomorrow with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, French President Nicholas Sarkozy, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, NATO Secretary General Jakob Gijsbert de Hoop Scheffer and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

The vice president also will meet with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov in separate sessions before returning to Washington on Feb. 8, White House officials said

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