World hopes for a 'less arrogant America'

BERLIN - November 4, 2008 From Berlin's Brandenburg Gate to the small town of Obama, Japan, the world gears up to celebrate a fresh start for America.

In Germany, where more than 200,000 flocked to see Obama this summer as he moved to burnish his foreign policy credentials during a trip to the Middle East and Europe, the election dominated television ticker crawls, newspaper headlines and Web sites.

Hundreds of thousands prepared to party through the night to watch the outcome of an election having an impact far beyond America's shores. Among the more irreverent festivities planned in Paris: a "Goodbye George" party to bid farewell to Bush.

"Like many French people, I would like Obama to win because it would really be a sign of change," said Vanessa Doubine, shopping Tuesday on the Champs-Elysees. "I deeply hope for America's image that it will be Obama."

Obama-mania was evident not only across Europe, where millions geared up for all-night vigils, but even in much of the Islamic world, where Muslims expressed hope that the Democrat would seek compromise rather than confrontation.

The Bush administration alienated Muslims by mistreating prisoners at its detention center for terrorism suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and inmates at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison - human rights violations also condemned worldwide.

"I hope Obama wins (because) of the need of the world to see the U.S. represent a more cosmopolitan or universal political attitude," said Rais Yatim, the foreign minister of mostly Muslim Malaysia.

"The new president will have an impact on the economic and political situation in my country," said Muhammad al-Thaheri, 48, a civil servant in Saudi Arabia. Like so many around the world, he was rooting for Obama "because he will change the path the U.S. is on under Bush."

Nizar al-Kortas, a columnist for Kuwait's Al-Anbaa newspaper, saw an Obama victory as "a historic step to change the image of the arrogant American administration to one that is more acceptable in the world."

Yet John McCain was backed by some in countries such as Israel, where he is perceived as tougher on Iran.

Israeli leaders, who consider the U.S. their closest and most important ally, have not openly declared a preference. But privately, they have expressed concern about Obama, who has alarmed some by saying he would be ready to hold a dialogue with Tehran.

Taking a cigarette break on a Jerusalem street corner, bank employee Leah Nizri, 53, said Obama represented potentially frightening change and voiced concern about his Muslim ancestry.

"I think he'll be pleasant to Israel, but he will make changes," she said. "He's too young. I think that especially in a situation of a world recession, where things are so unclear in the world, McCain would be better than Obama."

Even in Europe, McCain got some grudging respect: Germany's mass-circulation daily Bild lionized the Republican as "the War Hero" and running mate Sarah Palin as "the Beautiful Unknown."

In Berlin, Republicans Abroad organized a "November Surprise Election Party" to watch live "how the Republican ticket McCain/Palin comes from behind and leaves the 'liberal elite media' in Europe and the United States puzzled."

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown clung to convention by refusing to say which candidate he wants to see win. Regardless of the outcome, he told Al-Arabiya television while on a tour of the Gulf, "history has been made in this campaign."

In Baghdad, a jaded Mohammed al-Tamimi said he didn't think U.S. policy on Iraq would change. Even so, "we hope that the new American president will open a new page with our country."

Kenyans made their allegiance clear: Scores packed churches on Tuesday to pray for Obama, whose late father was born in the East African nation, and hailed the candidate - himself born in Hawaii - as a "son of the soil."

"Tonight we are not going to sleep," said Valentine Wambi, 23, a student at the University of Nairobi. "It will be celebrations throughout."

Kenyans believe an Obama victory would not change their lives much but that hasn't stopped them from splashing his picture on minibuses and selling T-shirts with his name and likeness. Kenyans were planning to gather around radios and TV sets starting Tuesday night as the results come in.

"We will feast if Obama wins," said Robert Rutaro, a university president in neighboring Uganda. "We will celebrate by marching on the streets of Kampala and hold a big party later on."

In the sleepy Japanese coastal town of Obama - which translates as "little beach" - images of him adorned banners along a main shopping street, and preparations for an election day victory party were in full swing.

Election fever also ran high in Vietnam, where McCain was held as a prisoner of war for more than five years after being shot down in Hanoi during a 1967 bombing run.

"He's patriotic," said Le Lan Anh, a Vietnamese novelist and real estate tycoon. "As a soldier, he came here to destroy my country, but I admire his dignity."


Kole reported from Vienna, Austria. AP correspondents worldwide contributed.

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