World Leaders Prematurely Congratulate Bush

Republican GeorgeW. Bush has traveled rarely outside the United States aside from trips to Mexico and his international experience is negligible compared to Democrat Al Gore, but politicians around the world were apparently delighted with Bush’s apparent win.

So delighted that in their rush to congratulate Bush for his apparent win, politicians around the world were left with diplomatic egg on their faces today.

Bush appeared to win Tuesday’s presidential election but Democrat Al Gore, who had called the Texas governor to congratulate him, later retracted his concession—throwing the election outcome into confusion.

Russia, China, Germany, Britain, France, the Netherlands, the European Union, Turkey and Indonesia were some of the countries that swiftly issued congratulatory statements in the minutes after U.S. television networks broadcast reports of a Bush win.

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

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.

China Jumps In

China congratulated Bush on his apparent victory in the U.S. presidential election today, 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 Democrat candidate Al Gore withdrew his concession of defeat — 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.

No Change at All?

Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh also congratulated Bush on his victory in the U.S. presidential election today.

“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,” Singh told a news conference during a visit to Hanoi.

Singh, who spoke just before news organizations reported that Gore had telephoned Bush to congratulate him on his win, said India’s relations with the United States would not change.

“It doesn’t change at all. India’s relationship with the United States of America, to borrow a phrase from U.S. political slang, has bipartisan support,” he said.

A Quick Retraction

The Dutch government moved just as swiftly to issue a retraction: “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.”

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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