- The Washington Times - Friday, December 15, 2000

President-elect George W. Bush received the traditional bouquets along with a few barbs as world leaders reacted yesterday to the news his victory had been confirmed.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair was the first world leader to speak with Mr. Bush by phone, offering his "warmest congratulations" and promising, "Together, we will strengthen the special friendship between Britain and the United States."
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, Chinese President Jiang Zemin, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori and Russian President Vladimir Putin were among the dozens of world leaders who joined Mr. Blair in offering the Republican warm wishes and hopes for good relations.
But there were also a few discordant notes, and Mr. Bush's inexperience in foreign policy and his cliffhanger win have left many abroad speculating about what policies he will pursue and the strength of his mandate to pursue them.
French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin offered Mr. Bush his "warmest congratulations," but also reminded reporters in Paris that Mr. Gore had won the popular vote nationwide.
"There was no recount in Florida, so there will always be uncertainty" about Mr. Bush's win, the Socialist Mr. Jospin said.
Kim Holmes, director of foreign policy and defense studies at the Heritage Foundation, said America's allies understand that, in foreign policy at least, Mr. Bush's authority is unlikely to be damaged by the election battle.
He said the new administration may have to drive that point home more forcefully with adversaries less familiar with the U.S. system.
"Given the kind of people he is likely to surround himself with in this field, I think President Bush will be given some instant credibility here," Mr. Holmes said.
Several leaders used their congratulatory remarks to wrap a pointed message in friendly words.
China's Mr. Jiang told Mr. Bush that he stood "ready to work together with you to promote a sound and stable [relationship] on the basis of the principles enshrined in the three Sino-U.S. Joint Communiques" a thinly veiled warning against a U.S. tilt toward Taiwan.
And French President Jacques Chirac touched on perhaps the most sensitive issue for Western Europe the suggestion by Bush aides during the campaign that the new president would move to end the U.S. military presence in the Balkans.
Mr. Putin's message of congratulations contained no such sting, but it was released by his office in Moscow as he was conducting a four-day trip to Fidel Castro's Cuba.
Mr. Castro's regime, which expects the incoming Republican administration to tighten the economic embargo on Cuba, offered the most caustic official welcome for Mr. Bush.
"It seems that the empire finally has a new leader," the official state television said in Havana. "From the new boss, we expect little."
Foreign editorial comment on the U.S. election result tended to break down along ideological lines.
London's conservative Daily Telegraph in an editorial said Mr. Bush would be able to govern despite the close, contested election, and will be an improvement over the Clinton-Gore team.
"After eight years of uncertain trumpets, all true Atlanticists can look forward to some real leadership in the White House, rather than the nervous multilateralism of a man who was profoundly ambiguous about the use of American power," the paper said.
But Hugo Young, columnist for the left-wing Guardian newspaper, countered: "Democracy, quite simply, was poisoned to put George W. Bush in the White House."
With Mr. Bush himself a mystery to many abroad, foreign leaders yesterday were looking to the president-elect's father former President George Bush for clues to the son's policies.
Kakha Imnadze, press secretary to Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, said Mr. Shevardnadze's relations with Republican Party leaders "are of a friendly and sentimental nature," dating back to the days of the Reagan and Bush administrations and the old Soviet Union.

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