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World rejoices at Obama's election win

Barack Obama basked in a warm glow of international euphoria yesterday as government leaders rushed to congratulate America's first black president on his election, which sparked spontaneous outpourings of joy across the world.

Reflecting the huge hopes placed in the Democratic President-elect who will replace the universally unpopular George Bush in January, South Africa's idol of racial reconciliation, Nelson Mandela, hailed Mr Obama as an inspiration.

"Your victory has demonstrated that no person anywhere in the world should not dare to dream of wanting to change the world for a better place," the former South African president said in a statement.

Leaders from Brussels to Beijing reached out to Mr Obama as they showered him with congratulations in response to his message of hope and healing. At the United Nations, the secretary general Ban ki-moon, spoke of the opportunity for a new beginning. "I am confident that we can look forward to an era of renewed partnership and a new multilateralism," he said. "If ever there were a time for the world to join together, it is now."

The European Commission president, Jose Manuel Barroso, called for "a new deal for a new world".

Britain, France and Germany, which Mr Obama visited during his triumphant foreign tour as candidate, reacted ecstatically. Gordon Brown, who had welcomed Mr Obama at Downing Street, praised his "inspirational campaign" which he said had energised politics with its progressive values and vision for the future.

As America partied, so did the rest of the world. In his late father's native Kenya, President Mwai Kibaki gave everyone the day off. International opinion surveys consistently showed that if the rest of the world had been able to vote in Tuesday's election, Mr Obama would have won by a landslide. In Bangkok, a 29-year-old Thai yesterday described Mr Obama as "the first truly global US president the world has ever had". "He had an Asian childhood, African parentage and has a Middle Eastern name. He is a truly global president," Pracha Kanjananont told Reuters.

Amid the euphoria, however, there was also realism at a time of urgent global challenges ranging from climate change to Iran's nuclear programme. With a deal on US and UK troop withdrawals from Iraq still to be finalised ahead of next month's deadline, the Iraqi Foreign Minister, Hoshiyar Zebari, stressed that Mr Obama would take conditions on the ground into account.

Amid widespread scepticism in the Middle East about prospects for a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians, the Israeli government saw no reason to fear any policy change compared with the Bush era. "We have no doubt that the special relationship between Israel and the United States will continue," said the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. The sourest reaction came from the Kremlin. The Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev, coupled a message of congratulations to Mr Obama with an announcement that Russia would station new short-range missiles in its Baltic enclave of Kaliningrad in protest against the US missile defence shield in Europe.

Belfast Telegraph


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