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International Journalists Debate Impact of U.S. Election

This week U.S. President George Bush won a second term in office, defeating Democratic Party challenger John Kerry in a tight race. On Thursday VOA correspondent Judith Latham spoke with journalists from all over the world about the impact of America's 2004 election. Here is a transcript of their discussion:

Ms. Latham: Joining me today is a distinguished international panel of journalists representing Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and East Asia.

First we begin with Herman Igambi, News Editor of Citizen FM, who speaks with us from Nairobi, Kenya. Welcome, Mr. Igambi. How are people in sub-Saharan Africa reacting to the election of President Bush to a second term?

Mr. Igambi: Most Kenyans were hoping that John Kerry would win. People in Africa think that Bush has not been supportive of the African cause.

Ms. Latham: How much interest has there been in the Illinois senatorial race in which Barack Obama, a Kenyan-American, was just elected?

Mr. Igambi: A lot of interest. When Barack Obama was declared the winner for Illinois, a lot of people are hoping that having a Kenyan at that high a level in America may influence some of the policies. He is indeed our hero.

Ms. Latham: And now we turn to T.V. Parsuram, Washington Bureau Chief, Press Trust of India. Mr. Parsuram, how are people in the Indian sub-continent reacting to the results of Tuesday's election?

Mr. Parsuram: Recently there was a first meeting between the Prime Minister of India and President Bush at the U.N. And the people of India were very happy over the meeting. Traditionally, Indians support the Labor Party in Britain and the Democratic Party in the United States. But lately, they realize that having a conservative government in the United States does not necessarily mean it will be less friendly, and Bush particularly is regarded by almost all sections of the people as a friend of India.

Ms. Latham: What was the response in India to the congressional race in Louisiana where an Indian-American candidate, Bobby Jindal, was elected to the U.S. House of Reprentatives?

Mr. Parsuram: Very, very happy. People in India recall that the last Indian to be elected to the House of Representatives was 50 years ago. It has long been felt that the Indian community, which is now about two million strong, lags behind other ethnic groups in having representation in Congress. Jindal's election is regarded as a good beginning.

Ms. Latham: Also joining us is Rami Khoury, Editor of the Daily Star in Beirut, Lebanon. Mr. Khoury, how are people in the Arab world reacting to George Bush's re-election?

Mr. Khoury: A minority in the region, I would say, is pleased with the re-election of George Bush. In Israel there is a lot of support among the government and among many people in Iraq and among some of the leaderships in the Arab world who are very close to the U.S. and depend on it for protection and financial aid. But I would say the majority in the region, especially in the Arab world and Iran, are critical of the Bush administration policies and are concerned about what the next four years will bring.

Ms. Latham: What changes are they anticipating in a second Bush term?

Mr. Khoury: Most people see the Kerry and Bush teams as having very similar policies on the big issues in the region - the Arab-Israeli conflict, the situation in Iraq, relations with Iran, issues of political and economic reforms throughout the region, and the war on terror the U.S. is waging. Now it's likely there will be some changes. A second administration for a president tends to do things a little differently. They have fewer electoral pressures on them. They would like to leave office with a certain legacy. So I think we should expect some differences in emphasis and tone and in the manner of practicing foreign policy. But where, it's too early to tell.

Ms. Latham: And finally, Xing Fu Zhu, Washington Bureau Chief, Shanghai Wen-Hui, says that Chinese officials are pleased with the Bush victory.

Mr. Zhu: For the Chinese government there is an American saying, 'The devil you know is better than the devil you don't know.' The Chinese government feels more comfortable dealing with an incumbent president because there will be continuity of the policy toward China. For the past three years, U.S.-China relations have been steady, sound, constructive, and cooperative.

Ms. Latham: What are expectations regarding Beijing's role in negotiating with North Korea, the face-off with Taiwan, and fighting terrorism?

Mr. Zhu: I think China hopes the next round of six-party talks will be held as soon as possible after the election. The only big concern or worry for China is about the Taiwan issue. We have common interests in international terrorism. On the other hand the Chinese side hopes the U-S will not have a double standard. More than 20 Uighur terrorists are being detained in the Guantanamo Base. Those people are very dangerous to China, but the U.S. thinks they're not dangerous. But I think we should address each other's concerns and seek more cooperation.

Ms. Latham: Whatever their views of the candidates before the 2004 election, members of the international press say that world leaders are hoping to have a constructive working relationship with Washington.