World hails Obama’s victory
PARIS (AFP) – – World leaders hailed Barack Obama’s triumph Wednesday in the US presidential election as the dawn of a new era and called for the global superpower to change the way it does business.
Obama parties were staged in capitals around the world. A national holiday was declared in Kenya — where Obama’s Kenyan father was born — to welcome the first black US president.
In Sierra Leone, six newborn babies were even named after the president-elect.
But within hours of Obama’s victory speech, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced that Russian short-range missiles would be aimed at a US missile shield in Europe, a reminder of the challenges awaiting him in office.
Nothing however could stop the wave of optimism that spread out from the United States after Obama’s victory over Republican rival John McCain.
South Africa’s iconic first black leader Nelson Mandela said Obama had shown that anyone could change the world.
“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,” Mandela wrote to Obama.
“We wish you strength and fortitude in the challenging days and years that lie ahead,” he added.
President Mwai Kibaki, who has declared a national holiday on Thursday to mark Obama’s victory, said: “This is a momentous day not only in the history of the United States of America, but also for us in Kenya.”
Pope Benedict XVI sent a telegram of congratulations to Obama to hail the “historic occasion”.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy extended his “warmest congratulations” to the 47-year-old Democratic senator.
“By choosing you, the American people have chosen change, openness and optimism,” added Sarkozy.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown welcomed the victory as an historic moment. “Barack Obama ran an inspirational campaign, energizing politics with his progressive values and his vision for the future,” he said.
China’s President Hu Jintao said in a written message: “In a new historical era, I look forward to… taking our bilateral relationship of constructive cooperation to a new level.”
Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso pledged to work with the new US leader to strengthen relations.
Indian Premier Manmohan Singh called it an “extraordinary” victory while Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said Obama’s victory was a landmark for equality 45 years after Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech.
“Today what America has done is turn that dream into a reality,” Rudd told reporters.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said in a statement: “This is a time for a renewed commitment between Europe and the United States of America.”
Medvedev, who was himself elected president in March, called for “constructive dialogue” in a message to Obama.
Earlier however, during his first state-of-the-nation address, he announced that Iskander missiles would be based in the western territory of Kaliningrad to “neutralise” US missile defence plans.
With wars in Iraq and Afghanistan heading White House priorities abroad, there were also calls for a change of tack on the US “War on Terror” launched after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
The “‘War on Terror’ cannot be fought in Afghan villages… Afghanistan is the victim of terrorism,” Afghan President Hamid Karzai said.
Obama’s election would not lead to a quick US disengagement from Iraq, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said.
“We don’t think there will be change in policy overnight. There won’t be quick disengagement here. A great deal is at stake here,” Zebari told AFP.
Outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said he was certain US-Israeli ties would strengthen under Obama.
“Israeli-US relations are a special relationship based on values and common interest, with tight cooperation,” he said in a statement.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a vociferous critic of the Bush administration, said in a statement: We are convinced that the time has come to establish new relations between our countries and with our region, on a basis of respect of sovereignty, equality and true cooperation.”
Obama’s supporters celebrated in major capitals around the world.
In Kogelo, Obama’s Kenyan family home, hundreds of villagers erupted into song and dance.
Swinging branches and chairs in the air, men cheered and clapped while women shouted “Obama! Obama!” in the village where his grandmother lives and where his late Kenyan father was born.
In the Sierra Leone capital Freetown, the church bells rang out as people sang in the streets, motorists sounded their horns — and newborn babies were named “Barrack Obama” at the city’s main maternity hospital.