Foreign Critics Congratulate Bush, Hope for Better Relations

By Patrick Goodenough | July 7, 2008 | 8:15 PM EDT

( - Foreign leaders critical of Bush administration policies reacted Wednesday to President Bush's resounding re-election with messages marked both by goodwill and cautious expressions of hope for better relations in the years ahead.

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan congratulated Bush on his re-election and "pledged his commitment to working with the U.S. leader on the whole range of issues facing the United Nations and the world," a U.N. spokesman said in a statement.

The spokesman said Annan paid tribute to American voters who turned out in record numbers in an "impressive demonstration of democracy" and lauded Sen. John Kerry for "his prompt and statesmanlike decision to accept the outcome."

Annan has in recent months been increasingly outspoken in his attacks on the U.S. decision to go to war against Saddam Hussein last year. In September he told the BBC the war was "illegal" and in violation of the U.N. charter.

Other leaders who spearheaded opposition to the Iraq war responded to Bush's victory, with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder saying his country would continue its "good cooperation" with the U.S.

French President Jacques Chirac congratulated Bush "in the name of France and for my own personal part."

"It is in a spirit of dialogue, esteem and mutual respect that our co-operation must continue to evolve, our common fight against terrorism and the joint actions which we are engaged in to promote liberty and democracy must continue to develop," Chirac said.

"We can only find satisfactory solutions to the numerous challenges with which we are confronted today through a close trans-Atlantic partnership," he added.

Chirac's office released a congratulatory letter sent by the president to his U.S. counterpart, addressed to "Dear George."

The president of the European Union's executive commission, Romano Prodi, said he hoped Bush's second term would "see the United States and the whole world enjoy the political stabilization and the guarantee of collective security we have all done our utmost to ensure."

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said his government wanted "to contribute to a relationship based on efficient and constructive co-operation with the government of the United States, with President Bush."

Relations between Madrid and Washington have cooled under Zapatero, whose Socialist government came to power last spring after a major terrorist attack and quickly pulled Spanish troops out of the Iraq coalition in line with a campaign pledge.

Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin was quoted as saying he would be phoning Bush to congratulate him on his re-election but would also raise some concerns, including "the need for a new multilateralism."

China has yet to react officially to Bush's re-election.

Analysts said earlier Beijing was uneasy about a Bush victory because he was seen as overly supportive of Taiwan, while the prospect of a Kerry administration prompted concerns that he would adopt a tougher line on China with regard to trade issues.

Earlier this week, the State Department sought clarification from China after official media published an article by an influential politician, senior foreign minister and vice premier Qian Qichen that was highly critical of Bush administration policies.

At a subsequent foreign ministry briefing, spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue would not say whether the article reflected government views, noting that Qian "does not hold any government position" and said Beijing attached great importance to bilateral ties.

In his comments, President Vladimir Putin of Russia, another permanent Security Council member which opposed the war in Iraq, highlighted the broader issue of terror.

Putin said he was "convinced international terrorism tried to prevent Bush from being re-elected," citing Osama bin Laden's election-eve statement.

Speaking before the outcome was confirmed, Putin said: "If Bush wins, then I will be able to rejoice that the American people did not allow themselves to be scared and made a right decision."

A spokesman for South African President Thabo Mbeki, an influential African and developing world leader whose government has been critical of Bush foreign policies, said he looked forward to continue to work with Bush to deal with challenges of poverty, underdevelopment and other issues.

"We hope for renewed support for and interest in Africa and the developing world, reform of world institutions and an era of multilateralism marked by social progress for all," spokesman Bheki Khumalo said.

Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow