World leaders hail Obama’s victory

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IOL pic nov8 obama rally podium Reuters United States President Barack Obama speaks during his election night victory rally in Chicago.

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

Congratulations poured in from around the world, including fellow United Nations Security Council members Britain, China, France and Russia, as well as staunch Middle East ally Israel and Obama's ancestral home in Kenya.

The Taliban, however, seized on Obama's win to lash out against US military policy in Afghanistan, and Iran's reaction was tepid.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange meanwhile called Obama a “wolf in sheep's clothing” and said he expected the US to keep attacking his website, which has enraged Washington by leaking classified government documents.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose relations with Washington have often been frosty, congratulated Obama on his victory over Republican challenger Mitt Romney, who had lashed out at Moscow during the campaign.

“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 spokesperson Dmitry Peskov as saying.

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 co-operative partnership”, a foreign ministry spokesperson said.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai congratulated Obama and said he hoped his win would lead to “further-expanded” relations, though reaction on the streets of the war-torn nation was muted and Taliban insurgents told Obama he should withdraw forces immediately, ahead of schedule.

“Obama must by now know that they have lost the war in Afghanistan,” a Taliban spokesperson said.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari said he was confident relations with the United States would “continue to prosper”.

Pakistan is a key ally in the US “war on terror” but relations over the past two years have grown fraught, especially after last year's US killing of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan and botched air strikes.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose relationship with Obama has at times appeared tense, also joined the well wishers.

“I will continue to work with President Obama to ensure the vital security interests of Israel and the United States,” said Netanyahu, who had appeared to throw his support behind Romney during the campaign.

Elsewhere in the Middle East, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas urged the US leader to pursue peace efforts, while Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said he hoped Obama's re-election would mean the creation of a Palestinian state in the next four years.

Direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians have been on hold since September 2010.

Iran, facing Western pressure over its nuclear drive, particularly from the US and arch foe Israel, said Obama's win would not lead to a normalisation of ties, but said the possibility of negotiations was “not taboo”.

“Relations with the United States are not simple, especially after all the pressure and US crimes committed against the Iranian people,” Fars news agency quoted judiciary chief Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani as saying.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said he was looking forward to working again with his “friend” Obama on several fronts, including helping 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.

United Nations leader Ban Ki-moon urged Obama to act quickly on ending the war in Syria and reviving the Middle East peace process, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she looked forward to continuing co-operation “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”.

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

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff also extended her congratulations.

The Dalai Lama wrote to Obama, saying the president had worked hard “to live up to that great hope and trust placed in you by the American public”.

Through a Washington envoy, Pope Benedict XVI said he hoped God would guide Obama to deal with “his very serious responsibilities to his country and to the international community”.

South African President Jacob Zuma urged the US to continue playing a positive role in Africa, and the Nelson Mandela Foundation said the US was a vital partner in the continent's efforts to overcome poverty and inequality.

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

But African Union chairperson Thomas Boni Yayi called on Obama to “show more commitment in the resolution of crises and other threats that weaken African countries”.

In Muslim majority Malaysia, Prime Minister Najib Razak urged Obama to continue to foster understanding and respect between the United States and Muslims worldwide.

And Turkish President Abdullah Gul said the bonds between Turkey and the United States were strengthened during Obama's first term. - Sapa-AFP

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