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Around the World

With a Handful of Exceptions, Most See Results as Dispiriting

By Glenn Frankel
Washington Post Foreign Service
Thursday, November 4, 2004; Page A44

LONDON, Nov. 3 -- Much of the world went to bed Tuesday night hoping and believing that John Kerry might win the White House but woke up Wednesday morning to find President Bush -- the most internationally unpopular American leader in decades -- on his way to a second term.

For many people outside the United States it was a dispiriting result that underscored the deep rift in policies and perceptions that has opened between the United States and many of its allies since Bush took office in January 2001.

A young Arab man watches a program about the U.S. election at a coffee shop in downtown Amman, Jordan. In much of the Middle East, reaction to the vote was muted. (Ali Jarekji -- Reuters)

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"America has missed a great chance to reunite with the world," said Graham Allen, a member of the British Parliament from the ruling Labor Party. "I fear the tragedy for all of us is that if America doesn't reach out to its friends, then its enemies will reach out to America."

Political leaders in a handful of countries such as Russia, Italy, Britain and Israel were enthused by the result, analysts said. But the large numbers of people across the world who had dismissed the Bush administration as a one-term aberration that had come to office illegitimately were stunned to see the president win.

"It will confirm those who feel there's a difference in basic values between the U.S. and Europe," said Charles Grant, director of the Center for European Reform here. "Although we have many common interests and values, when you get to things like religion, gun control and the death penalty, we just live on a different planet."

Poll after poll taken abroad showed sizable majorities opposed to Bush in virtually every country except Israel and Russia in a U.S. election that the world watched more closely than any in recent memory.

In France, the center of opposition to the war in Iraq, Bush's victory shocked many analysts. "The rest of the world has to face reality," said Philippe Labro, a novelist and journalist who specializes in American issues. "We have the same president in power, the same team and probably the same policies. Both the U.S. and the rest of the world have to realize that we need each other, because if we don't, we're all in trouble."

French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier, discussing U.S.-French relations, told reporters that he looked forward to "putting our differences in the past, and to future cooperation." Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder of Germany, whose government also opposed the Iraq war, sent a letter of congratulation to Bush, saying he looked forward to further cooperation on such issues as terrorism, climate change and the environment. "These challenges can only be tackled through joint effort," Schroeder wrote.

The U.S. election process raised many eyebrows abroad. Francois Heisbourg, director of the Paris-based Foundation for Strategic Research, called it "totally bizarre" and "outdated." Le Monde newspaper expressed dismay in an editorial. "What an example for a democracy to give to the world, electors voting late into the night in Ohio, waiting for votes, faulty voting machines, these unending recounts!" it wrote.

President Vladimir Putin of Russia welcomed the president's victory. "I'm convinced international terrorism set the goal of preventing Bush from being reelected," Putin said at a news conference in Moscow. The result of the ballot, he said, showed "the American people haven't let themselves be intimidated by terrorists and have made a decision that was appropriate."

"The Kremlin believes that a Republican administration will pay less attention to Chechnya, democratic freedoms, civil rights in Russia," said Alexei Makarkin, an analyst with the Center for Political Technologies in Moscow. "This is very convenient for the Kremlin."

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of Italy, who has been an enthusiastic Bush ally on Iraq and who was on an official visit to Moscow on Wednesday, said "the continuation of Bush in American politics makes things easier for us."

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose support for Bush has weakened his popularity, sent his congratulations. But Blair pledged in Parliament earlier in the day to press his American partner to revive efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a means of helping defeat international terrorism.

Officials in Israel welcomed the Bush victory. Zalman Shoval, an adviser to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and a former ambassador to the United States, said that the way the United States views "the dangers of the civilized world, support for Israel is almost a foregone conclusion, because they see us as part of the good guys."

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