It didn't take long for the congratulatory telegrams and telephone calls to begin pouring in. Almost immediately after the polls closed on the West coast, world leaders began contacting US President-elect Barack Obama to offer their support and backing as he approaches a daunting list of hotspots and problems that urgently need attention. Mostly, though, the world simply wanted to congratulate America's new leader.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel published a statement on the chancellery Web page offering her congratulations to Obama on his "historic victory." She writes: "At the beginning of your administration, the world faces momentous challenges. I am convinced that, with closer and more trusting cooperation between the US and Europe, we can resolutely confront the novel challenges and dangers facing us…. You can be sure that my government is fully aware of how important the trans-Atlantic partnership is for our futures."
In her brief statement, Merkel also invited Obama to visit Germany soon and wished him all the best at the beginning of his term.
Germany's President Horst Köhler likewise offered his congratulations to Obama, saying that "we increasingly recognize how important it is for countries to work together. The international community has a responsibility to work together for peace, freedom and prosperity, in the battle against poverty and to protect our planet… My country is prepared to face these challenges together with the United States of America."
Indeed, as the messages poured in, it became clear that world leaders are awed by the numerous difficult tasks ahead and hope that Obama will work more closely with the world community than did his predecessor US President George W. Bush.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said in his congratulatory message: "With the world in turmoil and doubt, the American people, faithful to the values that have always defined America's identity, have expressed with force their faith in progress and the future. At a time when we must face huge challenges together, your election has raised enormous hope in France, in Europe and beyond."
Jose Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, was more explicit in what he hopes to see from the next US president. "We need to change the current crisis into a new opportunity," he said. "We need a new deal for a new world. I sincerely hope that with the leadership of President Obama, the United States of America will join forces with Europe to drive this new deal -- for the benefit of our societies, for the benefit of the world."
Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said: "The necessity for cooperation between Europe and the United States is bigger than ever. Only by close trans-Atlantic cooperation can we face the world's challenges."
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was more specific, saying "it has been an important election. I think the most important thing that follows from it is that America and Europe will have to work together to deal with the international problems we face, not just the financial crisis, but also stopping protectionism, making sure we work for stability and particularly peace in the Middle East."
Congratulatory notes poured in from other corners of the world as well, with Afghan President Hamid Karzai praising a "lack of interest in race and color while electing the president." He said that color-blindness "will go a long way in bringing the same values to the rest of the world sooner or later."
Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso also offered his congratulations, as did leaders from the Philippines, India, South Africa, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and many more.
Perhaps the most euphoric of all, however, was Mwai Kibaki, the president of Kenya where Obama has roots on his father's side of the family. Kibaki declared November 6 a holiday in honor of Obama and said: "We the Kenyan people are immensely proud of your Kenyan roots. Your victory is not only an inspiration to millions of people all over the world, but it has special resonance with us here in Kenya."
cgh -- with wire reports
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