World hails Obama's victory

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and other EU leaders congratulated Barack Obama on Wednesday on his "brilliant victory" in the US presidential election, expressing hopes for closer collaboration between Europe and the USA.


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Warm congratulations from world leaders started pouring in for Barack Obama as soon as election results showed that he would become the United States’ 44th president.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy was among the first to congratulate the US’s first black president, adding his hopes to those of the American people.

“At a time when we must face immense challenges together, your election is creating an immense hope in France, in Europe and beyond – that of a strong, open and sympathetic America, which will again lead the way with its partners through the force of example and adhesion to its principles,” Sarkozy wrote in a letter to the president-elect.

Many other heads of state and government joined Sarkozy in sending Obama their best wishes. “Barack Obama ran an inspirational campaign, energising politics with his progressive values and his vision for the future,” British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said. German Chancellor Angela Merkel described the outcome of the election as “historic” and promised the US “close co-operation” and “mutual confidence”.

European leaders expect Obama to turn over a new leaf after the Bush administration was widely accused of treating Europe with contempt. They have a long list of demands ready for Obama, from climate change to the economic crisis and relations with Iran and Russia.

In his annual address to the nation, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev failed to mention Obama’s victory but slammed the US’s “selfish” policies. The only high-ranking Russian official to comment publicly on the election was Deputy Prime Minister Grigory Karasin, who told Interfax news agency: “Everyone has the right to hope for a freshening of US approaches to all the most complex issues, including foreign policy and therefore relations with the Russian Federation.”

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said he expected Obama to take “real action to overcome the global financial crisis, especially since the crisis was triggered by the financial conditions in the US”.

Obama’s heavy international agenda

Obama is faced with a heavy political agenda, starting with the Middle-East. Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, called on the new US president to “speed up efforts to achieve peace” between Israel and the Palestinians.

“People are celebrating the departure of George Bush and place a lot of hope in Obama”, said Guillaume Auda, FRANCE 24’s correspondent in Ramallah.

Tzipi Livni, Israel’s foreign minister and candidate for the post of prime minister, hoped for “the continued strengthening of the special and unshakeable special relationship between the two countries”.

In Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai declared: “I hope that this new administration in the United States of America, and the fact of the massive show of concern for human beings and lack of interest in race and colour while electing the president, will go a long way in bringing the same values to the rest of world sooner or later.”

FRANCE 24’s special correspondent in Irak Lucas Menget, who followed the US election from Baghdad, said the population remained generally uninterested in the final result. However, an Iraqi told him: “This is still a great lesson in democracy for us.”

Despite Obama’s pledge to remove American troops from the country gradually, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said: “We don't think there will be change in policy overnight.” While looking forward to a “successful partnership” with Obama, he warned: “There are many upcoming challenges.”

In Africa, many reactions expressed pride, as Obama has roots in Kenya. “Africa, which today stands proud of your achievements, can only but look forward to a fruitful working relationship,” South African President Kgalema Motlanthe said in a statement.



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