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Opinion divided on president's re-election




 

LONDON - In Europe and across the Middle East, Africa and Asia, President Bush's election victory produced two vastly different reactions: Some welcomed it while others expressed a sense of gloom and resignation.

In France, perhaps the epicenter of European hostility to Bush, a feeling of despair was almost palpable.

"This is not going to make the relationship on the two sides of the Atlantic any easier," said Guillaume Parmentier, director of the French Center on the United States.

"After the 2000 election, there was a feeling in Europe that, OK, he is a minority president, elected by one vote on the Supreme Court. Now that he is re-elected by a majority, Europeans will think, `Well, the Americans really want this guy,'" he said.

But soon after John Kerry conceded defeat, many Europeans turned their attention to the nuts and bolts of dealing with four more years of a Bush administration.

In Poland, the one European Union country where Bush still enjoys a measure of popular sympathy, Grzegorz Kostrzewa-Zorbas, a political analyst, noted that the Bush administration had not provided Poland any significant contracts in Iraq, nor had it eased visa requirements for Polish citizens--two reasons Poland was unlikely to keep its troops in Iraq much longer.

Christoph Bertram, director of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs in Berlin, also complained about the Bush administration's "lack of professionalism" in its relations with European allies but also warned that it was time for Europe to face reality and set aside the anti-Bush rhetoric."

Governments around the world offered Bush their congratulations, but for some it had a perfunctory ring.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Bush's closest ally in Europe, told Parliament on Wednesday that he would push the president to make a solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a top priority in his second term.

But in the Middle East, there was little optimism. Even before Kerry conceded, many Arabs had resigned themselves to the re-election of Bush, whom they criticize for his strong support of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, as well as U.S. handling of the war in Iraq.

"A Bush victory will be a victory for his pre-emptive war doctrine," Egyptian political analyst Mohammed Sid Ahmed wrote in Al Ahram Weekly just before the vote.

At the top of the agenda for much of the Mideast is the troubled U.S. effort to pacify and rebuild Iraq.

Yassin al Dhari, an American studies professor at Baghdad University, said Bush's re-election ensures that "terrorism will remain in Iraq and that terrorists will continue to be backed by neighboring countries opposed to U.S. occupation of Iraq."

In Israel, Sharon's office expressed satisfaction with Bush's re-election and said that Sharon would call Bush on Thursday to congratulate him.

But not all Israelis were pleased. Nita Schechet, 52, a university lecturer with dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship, said she had not voted in an American election since moving to Israel 32 years ago because she felt only people who lived in the U.S. should vote. But this election was different.

"This time I felt like Bush was a danger to the world," said the former Chicago resident.

In South Africa, where the cable television network aired Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" on the eve of the election and most people support Kerry, many said they were worried about the direction the U.S. was moving with Bush.

But Greg Mills, director of the South African Institute of International Affairs, said the Bush victory was probably better news for Africa than a changeover in administrations.

In terms of concrete assistance, Bush has "offered a surprising amount of aid and trade concessions to Africa as well as assistance with HIV/AIDS," Mills said.

In China, Bush's victory created little stir, with most people interested mainly in U.S. policy toward China's rival, Taiwan.

"I don't care who is president as long as he helps return Taiwan to us," said Sun Ping, a 58-year-old construction worker.

In India, the world's largest democracy, Bush's victory was seen as good for business.

Raja Mohan, a professor of South Asian studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, noted that India has done more business with the U.S. in the past four years than in the previous 40.

"We believe the relationship is poised for a significant expansion," Mohan said, "and the return of Bush raises that prospect.

With war raging in Iraq and the campaign against terrorism being waged in South Asia and the Middle East, Latin America has fallen toward the bottom of Bush's priority list. Its officials say they do not expect relations to change much because Washington is focused elsewhere.

Argentina's main concern is restructuring nearly $100 billion in defaulted debt, and the Bush administration has generally supported its efforts.

In Mexico, Bush's re-election was never going to be popular on the streets because of overwhelming opposition to the Iraq war and the Bush administration's brash style in foreign policy. But officials greeted it with renewed hope to make progress on immigration reforms and other bilateral matters.

President Vicente Fox sent Bush a congratulatory letter Wednesday, reminding him of the importance of the U.S.-Mexico relationship and inviting him to make a state visit to Mexico soon.

Although Cuban-American votes in Florida helped carry Bush to victory, Cubans in Havana were stunned by Bush's re-election and said they expected relations to remain tense between the two nations.



 


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Information in this article was accurate in November 4, 2004. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.