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World leaders adapt to anticipated Bush win
Updated: 2004-11-03 23:45

A divided world came to terms on Wednesday with the idea of four more years of President Bush, with friends hailing his anticipated re-election and critics vowing to make the best of it, especially in Iraq.

Allies like Russian President Vladimir Putin and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi saw Bush's likely victory as bolstering the U.S.-declared "war on terror." But some disenchanted Europeans urged him to heal transatlantic rifts.

Many Arabs forecast further bloodshed in the Middle East because of what they saw as Bush's misguided policies, but elsewhere politicians and commentators said continuity had its merits compared with a change of guard in the White House.

The day after Tuesday's polls, Bush was close to defeating Democratic Sen. John Kerry, but questions over provisional ballots in Ohio delayed a final result.

Bush supporters abroad focused on what they saw as his more resolute anti-terror line three years after the Sept. 11 attacks.

In dramatic proof of the changes in Moscow in the past 20 years, Putin said a victory for Bush would mean the United States had not allowed itself to be cowed by terrorists. "If Bush wins, then I can only feel joy that the American people did not allow itself to be intimidated, and made the most sensible decision," he told a Kremlin news conference.

Berlusconi, also in Moscow, said that if re-elected "Bush will continue with the policy that assigns the United States the role of defender and promoter of freedom and democracy."

In Poland, which like Italy has troops in Iraq backing U.S. forces, President Aleksander Kwasniewski said that on terrorism Bush "is a very decisive leader who is right, simply right" and that continued cooperation with him was "really good news."

It was an election watched intently around the world with issues of deep international interest, including the Iraq conflict and the state of the U.S. economy, dominating the race.

Leaders who supported the Iraq war had wanted to see Bush re-elected. Opponents privately made clear they preferred Kerry.


In France, which was a leading critic of the war, Foreign Minister Michel Barnier called the election the start of "a new stage" irrespective of who won.

"We are going to work with the new U.S. administration that is formed," he said. "We have many things to do, both on the current crises -- in Iraq, the Middle East, Iran, the fate of the African continent -- and to renovate the transatlantic relationship."

German Interior Minister Otto Schily said: "Despite the issue of our differing positions in the past, we all have to contribute to ensuring that the situation in Iraq stabilizes."

But Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik spoke for several countries when he said: "I hope that (Bush) will try to build bridges ... and do more to cooperate via international organizations."

Middle Eastern peoples, with the exception of Israelis and some Iranians, reacted with resigned disappointment.

Khaled Maeena, editor of Saudi newspaper Arab News, said: "Four more years means (Bush) will be relentless in fighting so-called terrorism. More innocent people will be victims ... All the Saudis I've seen so far are disappointed."


Sami Abu Zuhri of the Palestinian group Hamas which is fighting Israel, said: "We urge the new American administration to reconsider its positions ... Until they (do so) we will continue to regard the U.S. administration as hostile to our Arab and Muslim causes."

But Iyad Allawi, prime minister of the U.S.-backed Iraqi government, told Italian daily La Repubblica: "Whoever wins will be our friend. The United States liberated us from a dictator (Saddam Hussein) from a very long period of war and agony."

Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said that between Bush and Kerry "there is no significant difference when it comes to their deep and warm support for Israel."

Other leaders also said either outcome was fine. "Regardless of which candidate wins, I think there will basically be no change in the recognition of friendship between Japan and the United States," said Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.


Many analysts agreed on the value of an unchanged administration, especially in troubled times.

Even in the Middle East, Farid Al-Khazin, political science professor at the American University of Beirut, said: "Continuity in policy at time of war is going to be crucial and I think re-election of Bush is far better."

Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra saw Bush's Republicans as more "outward looking" than the Democrats and said a Bush victory would be better for free trade.

Analysts said Bush would need to restore goodwill eroded by U.S. opposition to worldwide issues such as the Kyoto pact to fight global warming -- a top issue for his British ally Prime Minister Tony Blair -- and the International Criminal Court.

"(Kyoto is) not an easy issue for Bush to shift on. He may be prepared to make some cosmetic, face-saving shifts to try and help Blair, but I can't see him making a fundamental shift of position," said British politics professor Wyn Grant.

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