by By Sumi Somaskanda Special for USA TODAY, USA TODAY
BERLIN - Europeans says leadership from the United States will be critical to solving global issues like the sluggish economies and conflicts in the Middle East and expressed hope that President Obama will turn his attention to the world in his second term.
"The US has such aninfluence on the rest of the world," said Thomasina Szemalikowski, a 45-year-old teacher in the British capital. "I hope this result will have a positive influence on Europe and the UK as we're in such an economic mess."
In London, a decked out US embassy hosted a grand election night bash, where Obama supporters enjoying McDonald's Big Macs and other American fare roared with delight after the swing-state Ohio was called for Obama.
Prime Minister David Cameron was among the first of the world leaders to congratulate Obama, tweeting, "Warm congratulations to my friend @BarackObama. Look forward to continuing to work together."
Chinese leader Wen Jiaobao called Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel wished Obama "continued strength and success in the second term" in a direct letter to the president.
In Berlin, the local Democrats Abroad branch greeted hundreds of American and German Obama supporters at a theater in the center of the city, where live blues music accompanied Obama videos and photo montages flashing across a big screen, while guests feasted on Jamaican-American fusion food and German beer.
"I think the USA is still a role model for the rest of the world in a certain way," said 29-year-old Stefan Gaertner, who spent a year as an exchange student in a Minnesota high school. "It's not the same as it was 15, 20, or even 30 years ago but I still think that decisions made in the USA have an influence on the world."
Obama will face a difficult task head globally. Among the challenges:
- Iran's nuclear program. The Iranian mullahs have continued to enrich uranium to
weapons-grade capabilities despite warnings from the USA to stop. Sanctions promoted by Obama for years have hurt economic activity in Iran but have not persuaded the regime to end its nuclear program, which is in violation of UN agreements. Israel has said it cannot abide an existential threat from Iran, and may use military forces to end it.
- China. Asian nations are pleading with the USA to help them curb China's
expanding territorial ambitions and the use of its growing military to force the region to abide by its demands. Japan, the Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, all U.S. allies, are using their own militaries to confront China's quest for more energy rights in the China sea and its attempt to seize control of islands claimed by its neighbors.
- Middle East. The Arab Spring is turning into a takeover by the Muslim Brotherhood, which has never been friendly toward American or Western influence. Syria's brutal military operation against a rebellion is spilling into Turkey and Lebanon, threatening a wider conflict. Al-Qaeda terrorist have infiltrated the uprisings in Syria, and have are resurgent in Iraq.
- North Africa. Militant groups aligned with al-Qaeda have spread throughout the region, in Mali, Nigeria, Somalia and Libya. One has been identified as responsible for the terror attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, which killed the American ambassador and three other Americans. Attacks on US embassies throughout the region have been attempted or plots to do so broken up.
- Europe. An economic crisis continues and may have an effect on the US economy. Deficit spending has not been slowed in debtor nations, and unemployment especially among younger workers has hit record levels, causing unrest in the streets and political battles.
- Russia. Another term for Vladimir Putin has brought with it a new wave of repression against democratic activists and political opponents. Putin has opposed
U.S. interests in numerous ways, blocking sanctions against Syria and Iran at the United Nations and helping Syria with weapons to continue its crushing of regime opponents.
In Moscow, the Kremlin welcomed the news cautiously and President Vladimir Putin sent a telegram of congratulations - though he was expected to call later. On the streets, Russians were lukewarm at best.
"It doesn't really make much difference who is president, Obama or Romney," said Oleg Korzin, 35, a Moscow businessman. "The US will never be a genuine ally or partner for Russia. Washington would be happy if Russia just ceased to exist."
The results came late Wednesday morning Beijing time, when most of China was at work, but some citizens followed closely online, on TV and at an election results party held in a Beijing hotel by the U.S. Embassy for Chinese guests and media to experience the U.S. system.
"Most Chinese prefer Obama, as we know more about him, he's shown his ability over four years," said He Minjuan, after posing for pictures at the event between life-size cutouts of the two candidates.
Beijing-based democracy lobbyist Xiong Wei also offered Obama congratulations, a request to visit China more, and a question. "How do you plan to promote China's
democracy and rule of law?" he wrote on the Sina Weibo microblog platform.
In the Middle East, Obama's victory was met with some skepticism by those questioned in Cairo. Analysts say Egyptians were focused on pressing domestic issues and political transformation to pay as much attention to this year's US elections as they did in 2008.
"Certainly the belief is that the willingness of Obama to use force only under the umbrella of international organizations makes people welcome his victory," said Mazen Hassan, a political science lecturer at Cairo University.
Iran's semi-official Fars news agency featured the headline "Republican's elephant crushed by Democrat's donkey."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has asked Obama to do more to confront Iran and its nuclear program, congratulated Obama.
"I will continue to work with President Obama to ensure the interests that are vital for the security of Israel's citizens," he said.
Israeli Deputy Speaker Danny Danon, a member of Netanyahu's Likud Party, expressed the hope that Obama would "come together to combat the greatest threat to freedom in our time," the Iranian nuclear program.
Danon also hoped that Obama would visit America's strongest ally in the Middle East. "I call on the president, who has already visited so many of our neighbors here in the Middle East, to finally visit Israel, thereby sending a strong and visible message to everyone about the deep and meaningful relationship between the U.S. and Israel."
In Pakistan, where anti-American Islamist groups have found safe haven, Obama has faced hostility for stepping up US-led drone attacks on suspected terrorist homes and camps. Other Pakistanis believe Obama has ignored the major problems of Pakistan, such as corruption and poverty, while focusing too much on Afghanistan, according to Pakistani daily newspaper, Dawn.
"In so far as our region is concerned, who the next incumbent is really not very material," wrote Dawn columnist Najmuddin A Shaikh. "If there was one thing that emerged clearly from the otherwise inane presidential debate on foreign policy and the vice-presidential debate it was that there is little daylight between the positions of Obama and Mitt Romney on Afghanistan and by extension on Pakistan."
The Mexico City newspaper Reforma said Obama should focus on economic matters, calling on the president and Congress to address the pending "fiscal cliff" or budget deficit woes that could negatively impact the U.S. economy and drag down Mexico- with it. Global surveys have show that the president has fallen in favor from the 2008 elections.
A Pew Research Center study released in June showed global approval of Obama had slipped dramatically, most significantly in Muslim countries and in China. The study showed Muslims in the Middle East felt he did little to address their issues, among them going after Israel, improving their economic lives or ending military operations in Muslim countries.
"Obviously there is a little disappointment because he could not have possibly fulfilled the hopes and expectations that people had when he first came to office," said Jan Techau, director of Carnegie Europe, the European Center of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Still, Europeans in particular still hold Obama in high esteem - especially curious, says Techau, because Obama spent little time focusing on Europe, instead setting his sights on China and the Middle East.
"There's not a lot of love coming back from Obama to the Europeans that love him so much," said Techau.
Contributing: Naomi Westland in London; Marc Bennetts in Moscow; Sarah Lynch in Cairo, Calum MacLeod in Beijing, Michele Chabin in Jerusalem, David Agren in Mexico City
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