World leaders greet Obama inauguration with hope, caution (Lead)

January 21st, 2009 - 3:09 am ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaBerlin, Jan 21 (DPA) World leaders lined up Tuesday to pay tributes to Barack Obama on the occasion of his inauguration as the 44th President of the US, with the new president drawing comments from America’s allies across the globe - as well as from current enemies.In the Middle East, where American stock has fallen furthest in recent years, guarded welcome for the president-to-be was evident.

Iran expressed hope that Barack Obama would “choose the right path” toward Iran, ISNA news agency reported Tuesday.

Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said that the US had no correct approach towards Iran and always been the “troublemaker”.

“But if Obama chose the right path, compensated the past, lifted hostility and (US) hegemony, and revised the previous political mistakes, we would have no hostility,” Mottaki said.

Iran and the US have been engaged in a protracted face-off over the former’s supposed nuclear weapons programme, an issue unresolved by the end of George W Bush’s presidency.

“We hope that angles of optimism would be created (with Obama) but the facts tell us we should not be optimistic,” Mottaki added.

The US’ firmest ally in the region, Israel, was suitably enthusiastic about the new resident of the White House.

Israeli President Shimon Peres said that the inauguration of Obama is a “great day” for the United States because his “most unusual hope and election, only ten years ago, would have been unimaginable”.

“What made history ugly, unmistakably, was basically slavery and there were two sorts of slavery: men upon women and white upon black,” Peres said.

In Europe, Obama was welcomed as the beginning of a new, perhaps more multilateral era.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in a television interview that she was hoping for improved US-German relations under the Obama presidency.

“I hope that our cooperation is shaped by listening to one another, and making decisions on the basis that one country alone cannot solve the world’s problems,” Merkel said on German state broadcaster ARD.

“This is the spirit in which I will encounter him,” the chancellor added.

Merkel said Obama was taking office at a time marred by problems, “for one thing, the economic situation in the world and also in the US, but also many international conflicts”.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said that he was impatient for Obama to take office so that the two of them could “change the world”.

“We are eager to see him go to work so that we can change the world with him,” Sarkozy said during a stop in the city of Provins.

However, Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner warned that Obama could not work political miracles.

“He is an exceptional man,” Kouchner said, “but he does not have a magic wand.”

The European Commission, executive body of the European Union (EU), President Jose Manuel Barroso said he looked forward to working with Obama “to promote a politics of global engagement that will support international institutions reformed to address effectively our global responsibilities, from climate change to development aid, trade, democracy and human rights, and sound financial systems”.

In Britain, Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister Gordon Brown sent messages of support to Obama as parties were held across Britain to mark the handover of power.

The European response was also marked with a touch of the bizarre. Former French presidential candidate Segolene Royal said Obama was inspired by her campaign and copied it, according to the online edition of the daily Le Monde.

“Yes, I inspired Obama and his teams copied us,” Royal said in Washington, where she was to be the only French politician of note to take part in Obama’s inauguration later Tuesday.

In Asia, Thailand’s 81-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej congratulated Obama on his inauguration and sent his wishes for greater “progress and prosperity” for the American people.

“I am pleased to extend to Your Excellency my sincere congratulations and best wishes for your success and happiness as well as for the greater progress and prosperity of the United States of America and her people,” said the king in a congratulatory message to Obama.

Long-standing US ally Japan said it hoped to build stronger ties with the US under the new administration, while Obama’s inauguration would provoke changes also in Japan, officials said Tuesday.

“What is most important is that we continue to make the Japan-US alliance a firm one even when there is a change in administration,” said Japanese Foreign Minister Hirofumi Nakasone, quoted by Kyodo News Agency.

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