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Mr. Obama has said he would meet with Iranian leaders but also has promised tougher sanctions if Tehran does not give up its nuclear ambitions.

Among Western leaders, the competition was over flattery.

The apparent victor was French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who has built a cordial relationship with Mr. Bush after years of strain in U.S.-French relations over the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

“Your stunning victory rewards a tireless commitment to serving the American people,” Mr. Sarkozy wrote in a handwritten note addressed “Dear Barack” and e-mailed to reporters by the French Embassy in Washington. “It is also the crowning achievement of an exceptional campaign whose brilliance and high tone demonstrated the vitality of American democracy to the entire world, while keeping them spellbound.”

Mr. Sarkozy promised that “France and Europe, which have always been bound to the United States through their ties of history, values and friendship, will thus be re-energized to work with America to preserve peace and prosperity in the world. Rest assured that you may count on France and on my personal support.”

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown hailed the election as “a moment that will live in history as long as history books are written” and promised to work with Mr. Obama on the economic crisis.

“I know Barack Obama,” Mr. Brown said, “and we share many values. We both have determination to show that government can act to help people fairly through these difficult times facing the global economy.”

But the very fact that Mr. Obama is viewed as less unilateral than Mr. Bush could make it harder for Western governments to rebuff U.S. demands.

For example, the war in Afghanistan could provide an early test of relations between the new administration and its NATO allies.

“We will approach the situation in Afghanistan according to the conditions on the ground,” British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said. He was reacting to a comment by Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Maryland Democrat, suggesting that Mr. Obama might ask Britain to provide more troops for the beleaguered country.

Pakistanis also have expressed concern at Mr. Obama’s remarks during his campaign that he would authorize U.S forces to attack Pakistan in hot pursuit of militants.

A statement from the Pakistani Embassy in Washington said President Asif Ali Zardari had congratulated Mr. Obama and “expressed the hope that the Pakistan-U.S. relations will strengthen under the new American leadership that has received a popular mandate for change.”

As Israelis heaped praise on the president-elect Wednesday, they also questioned whether Mr. Obama could be as staunch a supporter of the Jewish state as Mr. Bush.

Palestinians said they looked forward to Mr. Bush’s replacement.

Mr. Obama’s pledge to use direct diplomacy with Iran to block it from building nuclear weapons has stirred concern among Israeli officials who think Tehran should be isolated.

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