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U.S. Again Hailed as 'Country of Dreams'

People around the world spilled into the streets to celebrate the victory of U.S. president-elect Barack Obama, many saying the win was an inspiration for minorities and a powerful signal that the United States intended to change direction.

"For the first time I feel the phrase 'I hereby declare that all men are created equal,' from the U.S. Declaration of Independence, really came to life for me today," said architect Mamdouh al-Sobaihi, a guest at a post-election reception Wednesday in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia. "U.S. history has returned to its roots. The forefathers would be very pleased with today's election," he said.

"Today the United States said not 'We want change' but 'We have changed,' " he added.

Saudi journalist Samir Saadi said Obama's election means "the U.S. has won the war on terror."

"Given Obama's name, his background, the doubts about his religion, Americans still voted for him, and this proved that America is a democracy," he said. "People here are starting to believe in the U.S. again."

For many, the youthful Democratic senator's election came with an almost visceral sense of relief at the impending end of the Bush administration. A recent BBC poll found that people in all 22 nations surveyed preferred Obama by a wide margin to Republican John McCain, who was widely identified with President Bush.

In Russia, Ilya Utekhin, an anthropologist at the European University in St. Petersburg, said Obama's election has given the United States "a historic chance for large-scale re-branding of the image of the United States."

"An African American president appears to have more sensitivity to the cross-cultural diversity of the world, and this is a promise of a more creative and flexible foreign policy," he said.

Viktor Erofeyev, a prominent Russian novelist, said he believed the election signaled a new era.

"The choice of an African American president in the United States overturns the whole idea of the stiff and conservative America," Erofeyev said. "This means that America did wake up. This means that America is again open for free and democratic values. America has once again become a good model to emulate. It has again become a great country."

"It is almost impossible to overstate the impact of this vote on the rest of the world," said Joichi Ito, a globe-trotting Internet entrepreneur and blogger who is based in Tokyo.

"The United States looked closed, stupid, xenophobic and aggressive" under Bush, Ito said. "By electing Obama, it looks open, diversity-embracing, humble and intelligent."

But the overwhelming reaction among those interviewed had nothing to do with Obama's policies. It was delight that America had produced, on a grand, global scale, inspiring and overdue proof that the American dream was still alive.


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