Hail to the chief – but not every nation is won over

GORDON Brown led the tributes to Barack Obama yesterday, hailing the president-elect's "inspirational" ascent to the White House.

Speaking from No 10, he said: "This is a moment that will live in history as long as history books are written."

The Prime Minister described Mr Obama as "a true friend of Britain", while emphasising their shared commitment to "progressive" politics.

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"I know that the values we share in common and the policies we work on together will enable us, these two countries, to come through these difficult economic times and build a safer and more secure society for the future," he said.

Across the Channel, Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, who holds the rotating EU presidency, said Mr Obama's "exceptional" campaign had underlined the vitality of democracy in the United States. "By choosing you, the American people have chosen change, openness and optimism," he said.

Jos Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, said the election of Mr Obama opened up the prospect for a "renewed politics of global engagement".

But while the US's allies warmly welcomed his victory, the reception was cooler in the Middle East and Russia.

In fact, the Kremlin gave Mr Obama a glacial welcome to the world stage when Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president, ordered the deployment of nuclear-capable missiles on Nato's borders for the first time since the Cold War.

He accused Washington of triggering the world financial crisis through its blunders and said selfish US foreign policy had sparked August's war between Russia and Georgia.

"I would like to stress: we have no problems with the American people. We have no innate anti-Americanism," he said in his annual address to parliament.

"We hope that our partners – the new US administration – will make a choice in favour of fully-fledged relations with Russia."

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Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, had predicted the US would never allow a black candidate to become president. Most Iranians are delighted he was wrong.

They hailed Obama's election as a triumph over George Bush's "war-mongering" policies and hoped for better relations between Tehran and Washington.

An aide to Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran's Supreme Leader, said: "We are not fully optimistic, but with a real change in American policy there will be a capacity to improve ties."

Manouchehr Mottaki, Iran's foreign minister, said it was clear American people wanted "basic changes in US foreign and domestic policy".

Syria, which, like Iran, has long had a troubled relationship with the US, also welcomed Mr Obama's election.

Mohsen Bilal, the information minister, said he hoped the new president "will help change US policy from one of wars and embargoes to on of diplomacy and dialogue" and work even-handedly for peace in the Middle East.

Thabet Salem, a leading Syrian journalist, said the Arab world was rejoiced at Mr Obama's victory. "Not because he won, but because it meant that President George W Bush, who is regarded as a bloodsucker, and his clique, were gone," he said.

Iraqis said they wanted US policy to change but differed over whether US troops should stay or go – Mr Obama has vowed to withdraw the US's 145,000 forces over 16 months from his inauguration in January.

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Many Iraqis yesterday urged him to keep that pledge. "We don't need an occupation here," Baqi Naqid, a journalist, said.

A spokesman for Muqtada al-Sadr said Mr Obama's victory reflected the "wish of the American public to withdraw forces from Iraq".

African family's joy at their 'son of the soil'

BARACK Obama's Kenyan family erupted in cheers yesterday, singing "We are going to the White House!" as their relative became the first African-American to be elected US president.

In the western village of Kogelo, where the president-elect's late father was born, police had to tighten security to prevent hordes of media and others from entering the rural homestead of Mr Obama's step-grandmother, Sarah.

But the elderly woman and several other relatives came outside to cheer for Mr Obama in a country where the Democrat is seen as a "son of the soil".

They cheered, danced and sang in the Luo language before heading back inside the compound.

Kenya's president, Mwai Kibaki, declared a public holiday today in honour of Mr Obama's election victory.

How the world reacted

"(The Pope's message to Obama] asks for God's blessings on the American people so that, together with all people of good will, a world of peace and justice can be built," the Vatican's chief spokesman said.

Pope Benedict

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"Barack Obama's election is a testimony to his exceptional leadership abilities. Above all, his election demonstrates America's extraordinary capacity to renew itself and adapt to a changing world."

Kofi Annan, former United Nations secretary-general

"With the world in turmoil and doubt, the American people, faithful to the values that have always defined America's identity, have expressed with force their faith in progress and the future. At a time when we must face huge challenges together, your election has raised enormous hope in France, in Europe and beyond."

Nicolas Sarkozy, French president

"Barack Obama ran an inspirational campaign, energising politics with his progressive values and his vision for the future. I know Barack Obama and we share many values. We both have determination to show that government can act to help people fairly through these difficult times facing the global economy."

Gordon Brown, Prime Minister

"Your victory is an inspiration for us. That which appeared impossible has become possible."

Yulia Tymoshenko, Ukrainian prime minister

"I have a huge amount of respect for the candidates and I was very happy and proud to see Obama at the front, and congratulations to him."

Lewis Hamilton, Formula One's first black champion

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