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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.

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In Brazil, many people likened Obama to Brazil's popular president, Luiz InĂ¡cio Lula da Silva, a former shoe shiner and union leader.

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"Obama is something new, something different," said Elizabeth Soares, a lawyer from Rio de Janeiro. "The way Obama expresses himself, his charisma, the way he speaks, reminds people of a Brazilian and makes them like him more."

The United States "is a country which has habitually, sometimes irritatingly, regarded itself as young and vibrant, the envy of the world," veteran BBC foreign correspondent John Simpson wrote on the network's Web site. "Often this is merely hype. But there are times when it is entirely true. With Barack Obama's victory, one of these moments has arrived."

David Lammy, a black member of Britain's Parliament who has known Obama for several years, said that "America is a country that has been marked by race."

"Now black and white can raise their shoulders high and can turn a page on issues of inequality," he said, marveling at the "amazing image" of a black family living in the White House.

Newspaper headlines in Britain portrayed Obama's election in soaring language. "One Giant Leap for Mankind," said the Sun newspaper in London, which dumped its usual topless Page 3 girl in favor of a photo of Obama voting. The Times of London, which devoted its entire front page to a photo of a smiling Obama in front of an American flag, proclaimed: "The New World."

In Germany, Benjamin Becker, 25, who studies English and history in Cologne, flew to Berlin for a party celebrating Obama's victory, an achievement he said would brighten global perceptions of the United States.

Becker, who spent a year in Atlanta on a Fulbright scholarship, said he had been "saddened" by America's diminished standing in the world in recent years. "I remember 10 years ago, when the United States was my absolute dreamland," he said. "Now I still am partial to the U.S., but the Bush years were detrimental for the country. I hope it will be much different now."

In Ukraine, where Obama will have to respond to the growing assertiveness of Russia, Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko called Obama's victory "an inspiration for us. That which appeared impossible has become possible."

In India, political representatives of the country's lowest caste, known as Dalits or "untouchables," said they viewed Obama's victory as an example in their own struggle for equal rights.

"This is America's second revolution, and Obama's victory will boost the esteem of the underprivileged social classes and ethnic groups the world over," said Chandra Bhan Prasad, a prominent Dalit author. "India's rigid caste society will come under terrific moral pressure to integrate Dalits even more."

In Iran, strained relations with the United States colored many people's perceptions of Obama's win.

"If America can do away with its prejudice, maybe they will also stop thinking that all Iranians are terrorists," said Elam Moghaddam, a homemaker shopping for shrimp in Tehran. "I hope that Iran and the United States will make diplomatic relations, now that Obama became president."

Mohammad Ali Abtahi, a former Iranian vice president and opponent of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, said he feared that Obama would be under "lots of pressure" to take a hard line against the Islamic world because of his Muslim roots.

"I hope he won't feel compelled to put more pressure on the Islamic world to compensate the fact that his middle name is Hussein," he said. "I congratulate the American people with this choice."

Praise for the election of an African American also came from an unusual source: Abbas Abdi, one of the organizers of the 1979 hostage-taking of American diplomats at the U.S. Embassy.

"It is hard to imagine that blacks 50 years ago in some states had to sit in the back seats in public transportation," Abdi said. "Now one of them, a member from a minority, is president."

Many people in China appeared baffled by the idea of a black president, displaying little knowledge of American blacks beyond the official state media's emphasis on stories about U.S. discrimination.

"Most Chinese don't have any contact with black people in their daily life," said Yuan Yue, founder of Horizon Research, which found in a recent poll that among Chinese respondents with a preference, Obama led McCain by almost 18 percentage points.

"Many Chinese have good feelings about the U.S. democratic system," he said. "And this result gives Chinese a more direct understanding about American democracy. It sends the message that everyone has a chance. If you raise the right issues, even if you are black, you can win. This is the most attractive part of American democracy."

Still, for some in China, the Obama glass remained only half-full. "Obama is half-white, half-black, so the progress in the U.S. is not that big," said Hu Jing, 25, a paralegal. "It will take dozens of years to elect a person who is 100 percent black."

Correspondents Edward Cody in Paris, Thomas Erdbrink in Tehran, Maureen Fan in Beijing, Blaine Harden in Tokyo, Mary Jordan in London, Philip P. Pan in Moscow, Joshua Partlow in Rio de Janeiro, Faiza Saleh Ambah in Jiddah, Mary Beth Sheridan in Baghdad and Emily Wax in New Delhi; special correspondents Karla Adam in London, Sherine el-Bayoumi in Cairo, Shannon Smiley in Berlin and Akiko Yamamoto in Tokyo; and researcher Zhang Jie in Beijing contributed to this report.


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