World Leaders Prematurely Congratulate Bush

With the recount in Florida’s nearly 6 million presidential ballots resuming today, Americans are still waiting to find out who is their president-elect.

And the rest of the world is at an even greater loss.

In a rush to be among the first to congratulate America’s new chief executive, world politicians who rushed to offer congratulations to George W. Bush, who was the projected winner over Al Gore shortly after 2 a.m. ET on Wednesday, were left with diplomatic egg on their faces when news organizations pulled back the call shortly afterward.

Minutes after U.S. television networks broadcasted reports of a Bush win during an incredible election night, Russia, China, Germany, Britain, France, the Netherlands, the European Union, Turkey and Indonesia were just some of the countries that swiftly issued congratulatory statements.

“We are much looking forward to working with Mr. Bush,” European Commission President Romano Prodi told reporters in Brussels, Belgium.

German President Johannes Rau said: “We know you [Bush] as a good friend of our country and look forward to the continuation of close friendship of our people during your time in office.”

Russia’s RIA news agency quoted a government official as saying: “We believe that Russia is not a new theme for Bush Jr., at least in terms of his family history with Russia.”

British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said relations with the United States would remain strong under Bush. “I am confident that we can build the same relationship with the new president,” Cook told BBC television.

Asia Jumps In

China, whose admission into the World Trade Organization is supported by both candidates, congratulated Bush on his apparent victory in the U.S. presidential election, the official Xinhua news agency said.

“China on Wednesday extended its congratulations to Republican George W. Bush, who has taken 271 electoral votes of the total of 538 to win the U.S. presidential election,” it quoted a Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying.

The one-paragraph report — issued before the callback — did not give any indication of how China thought a Bush presidency might affect relations between the two countries.

However, Bush’s father, former President George Bush, who was the top U.S. envoy to China in the late 1970s, is regarded in Beijing as a friendly face.

Both candidates support granting permanent trade status to China, although Bush has urged providing Taipei with explicit guarantees of military support should China try to force unification. Gore opposes closer ties with Taiwan.

China’s arch-enemy India also congratulated Bush. “Of course we are delighted and would wish to congratulate Governor George Bush, president elect, but I would much rather wait until the formal announcement is made,” Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh told a news conference during a visit to Hanoi.

A Quick Retraction

The Dutch government moved swiftly to issue a retraction of its congratulatory statement: “Given the fact that at this moment uncertainty exists about the outcome of the American presidential elections, the earlier statement … has been retracted.”

A German spokeswoman for Rau said after asking news agencies not to publish a statement welcoming a Bush win: “What can we do? It is complicated. One wants to be among the first sending congratulations and warm wishes.”

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