- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 3, 2004

LONDON — President Bush’s biggest adversaries from “Old Europe” extended a hand of friendship as the world greeted his re-election with a mixture of hope and disappointment.

French President Jacques Chirac, in a congratulatory letter, said he hopes that Mr. Bush’s second term “will be the occasion for strengthening the French-American friendship.”

“We will be unable to find satisfying responses to the numerous challenges that confront us today without a close trans-Atlantic partnership,” wrote Mr. Chirac, Europe’s highest-profile critic of Mr. Bush’s first-term.

He addressed the letter “Dear George.”

Among Mr. Bush’s friends, Russian President Vladimir Putin praised American voters for their choice.

“I can only feel joy that the American people did not allow itself to be intimidated” by threats from international terrorism and that they have “made the most sensible decision.”

Standing at the Russian leader’s side at a joint press conference in Moscow, visiting Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said the U.S. president’s election to a second term “will make our life easier.”

“In the international arena, Bush will pursue a policy that will give the United States the role of a promoter of liberty and democracy in the world,” Mr. Berlusconi said.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, whose outspoken opposition to war in Iraq angered Washington but helped him win re-election in 2002, sought common ground with Mr. Bush.

“Our security and stability are threatened by international terrorism, the risk of the spread of weapons of mass destruction, regional crises, poverty, climate change and epidemics. These challenges can only be met together,” Mr. Schroeder said in a telegram.

Immediately after Sen. John Kerry conceded that he had been defeated by Mr. Bush in the presidential race, British Prime Minister Tony Blair telephoned the White House to congratulate the victor and in the process underlined the close ties with Mr. Bush that have split the British public.

“A world that is fractured, divided and uncertain must be brought together,” Mr. Blair later told reporters in his Downing Street home after speaking with Mr. Bush on the telephone.

Elsewhere around the world, political leaders voiced cautious optimism.

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, also a close Bush ally, and Thailand’s prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, both pledged that their nations would continue to maintain good relations with the United States during the second Bush administration.

In Indonesia, Muslim leader Syafii Maarif described the Bush victory as “a catastrophe” and said, “Bush has made a mess of the world over the last four years.”

In Africa, there was a distinct lack of enthusiasm for a second Bush term. Kenyan Vice President Moody Awori predicted, “We are going to see more dictatorship on an international scale. We are going to see more extremism come out of [the United States].”

Hungary announced that it would withdraw its 300 noncombat troops from Iraq by the end of March. Its government has been under mounting pressure from citizens and opposition parties, who object to the soldiers’ presence.

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