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World Leaders React to Bush Victory

(CNN) -- Russian President Vladimir Putin led world leaders' tributes to George W. Bush's victory in the U.S. presidential race, saying it meant Americans had not allowed themselves to be cowed by terrorists.

"If Bush wins... I can only feel joy that the American people did not allow itself to be intimidated, and made the most sensible decision," Putin said at a Kremlin news conference after talks with Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi.

He was speaking before Democratic challenger John Kerry conceded victory to Bush in Tuesday's vote.

Ex-KGB agent Putin and former oilman Bush have forged a close relationship that Russian opposition to the U.S.-led war in Iraq has not derailed and have been united in the struggle to derail Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda movement.

"I am convinced that international terrorism gave itself the goal of not allowing the re-election of Bush. The statement by bin Laden in the final stages of the pre-election campaign is the best confirmation of this," Putin said.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said that "Bush will keep up that policy that gives the United States the role of promoting freedom in the world."

He added that Bush's victory would help maintain close ties between the United States and Italy.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer -- an Iraq war ally -- had predicted a Bush win.

He said: "We've had a very good relationship with them (Bush administration) for the last four years and I'm sure we'll be able to keep building on that over the next four," he told Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Australia is also one of Bush's strongest allies in the war on terrorism.

German Interior Minister Otto Schily said Washington would continue to be "a very important partner, if not the most important one."

"We had differences over Iraq, but we're not looking back now -- we're looking to the future," he said.

Germany was one of the strongest opponents to the Iraq war, along with France.

French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier called the election the start of "a new stage."

"We are going to work with the new U.S. administration that is formed," he said. "We have many things to do, both on the current crises -- in Iraq, the Middle East, Iran, the fate of the African continent -- and to renovate the transatlantic relationship."

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero who pulled Spanish troops out of Iraq following the Madrid bombings looked forward to mending fences.

"I would like to express the desire of the Spanish government to contribute to a relationship based on efficient and constructive cooperation with the government of the United States, with President (George W.) Bush."

Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Israel would have had a good relationship with either of the two contenders.

"Now that Mr Bush is elected, we are very happy and we congratulate the American people for their choice."

Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, whose country also backed the war, said "further cooperation with George W. Bush is good news" that would mean the continuation of strong cooperation on international issues such as the fight against terrorism.

Denmark's Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen appealed for "a fresh start for the trans-Atlantic partnership" but held firm with Bush on Iraq. Denmark has 501 troops in the southern Iraqi port city of Basra.

"We will stay there as long as needed so the Iraqis can be helped to become masters in their own homes," he said.

Sweden's Prime Minister Goeran Persson said the close vote "was not unexpected.... But it was a divided nation that went to the polls."

"It is an incumbent president in a situation where a great part of the nation experiences that it is in war with terrorism," Persson said. "The economy is moving in the right direction. These two issues together should have given Bush a clear victory. Despite this, it was very narrow. This shows that the U.S. is divided." Caution

Most world leaders responded cautiously at first to the close result, avoiding comments that could be interpreted as favoring one candidate over another before a winner has been declared.

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, another staunch ally of Bush over Iraq, said he would reserve any comment until a final tally was completed.

While congratulating Hamid Karzai for officially being declared the winner of Afghanistan's first-ever presidential, Blair told the House of Commons on Wednesday:

"Like everyone else, I await the outcome of the other presidential election with interest."

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said that no matter who became the next U.S. president, Japan -- another U.S. ally in Iraq -- would continue to have close ties with the United States.

"Whoever gets elected, Japan-U.S. ties and the alliance will not change," he said.

Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh said he expected "the general lines" of U.S. policy in his war-torn country to remain unchanged whoever won.

"Supporting Iraq and the Iraqi people against terrorism and extremism is fixed in the politics of the United States because it is demanded by the United States' security and political interest," he said on Al-Arabiya television.

Thailand's Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said his country would have good relations with whoever wins, but that talks on a free trade agreement between the countries would "move forward quicker" if there was a Republican administration.

"People worry about security because if the Republicans win, war and terrorism will escalate," Thaksin told reporters. "I think Bush is aware of such a scenario and things will move in a better direction after the election."

However, the leaders of Russia and Italy said an election victory by Bush would strengthen the United States and benefit their countries.


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