World congratulates Obama on victory

President Barack Obama's return to White House is widely celebrated, from Europe to his childhood home of Indonesia.

    US President Barack Obama and his family took to the  stage for his victory speech in Chicago [AFP]
    US President Barack Obama and his family took to the stage for his victory speech in Chicago [AFP]

    World leaders have hailed President Barack Obama's sweeping re-election, with allies  pledging to deepen cooperation with the United States on fighting the world economic slump and maintaining security across the globe.

    Congratulations poured in on Wednesday from across the world, including fellow UN Security Council members Britain, China, France and Russia as well as its staunch Middle East ally Israel and Obama's ancestral home in Kenya.

    Russia President Vladimir Putin, whose relations with Washington have often been frosty, sent a telegram congratulating Obama on his victory over Republican challenger Mitt Romney.


    "We hope that the positive beginnings that have taken hold in Russian-US relations on the world arena will grow in the interests of international security and stability," Russian news agencies quoted Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying.

    Moscow is ready to "go as far as the US administration is willing to go," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was quoted as saying by the RIA Novosti news agency.

    In Beijing, Chinese President Hu Jintao, who himself is handing over power at a Communist Party congress starting this week, noted "positive progress" in Sino-US relations over the past four years despite tensions over issues such as trade and territorial disputes involving US allies.

    China will "look to the future and make continuous efforts for fresh and greater progress in the building of the China-US cooperative partnership," foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters.

    Meanwhile, Indonesians celebrated in Obama's childhood home of Jakarta where a statue of a young "Barry" Obama, as he was called as a child, stands outside the school he attended in Jakarta.

    Students inside watched the election results on TV and cheered when they learned Obama would remain in the White House for another four years. He lived with his mother and stepfather in the Indonesian capital from age six to 10.

    Other countries across Asia also closely watched the incoming results, some setting up polling booths and holding mock elections while throwing parties as returns came in.

    Israeli-Palestinian reactions

    Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu congratulated Obama, saying that the strategic alliance between their two countries was "stronger than ever".

    "I will continue to work with President Obama to ensure the interests that are vital for the security of Israel's citizens," Netanyahu, who has had a testy relationship with the US leader, said in a short written statement.

    Netanyahu's defence minister, Ehud Barak, who was a frequent visitor to Washington over the past four years, said in his own statement he had no doubt Obama will continue his policies, which "fundamentally support Israel's security".

    "It is possible to overcome any differences in positions that may arise," Barak said.

    The Western-backed Palestinian Authority has been disappointed that Obama did not pressure Israel to make greater efforts to make peace with the Palestinians, including a freeze on all settlement construction.

    In the absence of negotiations, senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat urged the US president to reverse course and support Palestinian efforts to seek UN General Assembly recognition of an independent state of Palestine.

    "We have decided to take our cause to the United Nations this month, and we hope that Obama will stand by us," Erekat told Wafa, the official Palestinian news agency.

    Hamas, the political group that controls the Gaza Strip, issued their own statement.

    "There is a chance for Obama to change the Israeli-biased American policy and build a new moral one that ends the double standards in dealing with various Middle East issues, and help the Palestinians to regain their rights," the statement said.

    "We heard moderate speech from Obama when he won the first time, but his policies contradicted with his speech. Now there is a good opportunity to implement what he promised without the Zionist lobby pressurising him," Hamas said.

    No intervention

    A spokesman for the main Syrian opposition bloc, the Syrian National Council, expressed hope that the election victory would free Obama to do more to support those trying to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad.

    "We hope this victory for President Obama will make him free more to make the right decision to help freedom and dignity in Syria and all over the world," SNC spokesman George Sabra said on the sidelines of an opposition conference on the Qatari capital of Doha.

    Sabra renewed the opposition's appeal to the international community to supply rebel fighters with weapons.

    The Obama administration and its Western allies have ruled out military intervention in Syria.

    The US has also been cool to opposition rebels' demands for weapons such as anti-aircraft missiles, out of concern that they could fall into the wrong hands.

    The US and other foreign backers of the Syrian uprising have urged the fractured, largely exile-based opposition to
    unite and include more representatives from inside Syria.

    In Obama, Japan, the president's re-election means more opportunity to capitalize on their shared name. Obama means "little beach" in Japanese.

    The western coastal town threw a party as they watched the election returns. Hula dancers known as the Obama Girls swayed in homage of the president's home state of Hawaii, said Obama city hall official Hirokazu Yomo.

    "Four more years," Yomo said. "So we are happy this will continue and help with building our city."

    In Myanmar, which is pushing political reforms forward after five decades of military rule kept it isolated from much of the rest of the world, some said they were relieved Obama was re-elected because he chosen to engage rather than sanction their country.

    British Prime Minister David Cameron said he was looking forward to working again with his "friend" Obama on several fronts, including kickstarting the world economy and finding a solution for the escalating Syria conflict.

    "There are so many things that we need to do: we need to kickstart the world economy and I want to see an EU-US trade deal," Cameron said.

    "One of the first things I want to talk to Barack about is how we must do more to try and solve this crisis," he said, referring to the conflict in Syria.

    European responses

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel wrote to Obama saying she looked forward to continuing cooperation "so both our countries can continue to stand side-by-side to contend with the important foreign policy and economic
    challenges that we face as friends and allies".

    Her message was echoed by European Union President Herman Van Rompuy, Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and French President Francois Hollande.

    Hollande said Obama's re-election is a "clear choice for an open, united America that is totally engaged on the international scene".

    Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki told Obama that people in his ancestral homeland were celebrating his "well deserved victory".

    "Kenya, as always is proud of our association with you," Kibaki said in a statement.

    "We look forward to the deepening of relations between our two countries during your second term in office."

    "The reason why he has won is because God has given it to him," said Sarah Obama, 90 this year and the third wife of the paternal grandfather of the president, who has said he regards her as a grandmother.

    South African President Jacob Zuma urged the United State to continue playing a positive role in Africa, saying "we value our relations with the United States and look forward to strengthening bilateral cooperation in the years to come."

    Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi also hailed the win, saying he hoped it would strengthen the "friendship between the two countries".

    SOURCE: Agencies


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