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World Takes Note of US Vote With Focus on Iraq

The final tally is not yet in with the vote outcome for the U.S. Senate still too close to call, but Democrats have won a majority in the House of Representatives in what is widely seen as a punishing vote for President Bush and his policy on Iraq.

The world is still digesting the news, but as expected the U.S. elections made front-page headlines around the world.

"America's damning verdict on Bush," is how Britain's Independent newspaper, described the outcome, adding that voters had punished the president for Iraq.

These elections were largely seen as a vote for or against Mr. Bush and his Iraq policy.

In Iraq, U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad sought to reassure Iraqis that American policy would not change drastically. He said President Bush is the architect of U.S. foreign policy and sees success in Iraq as imperative to U.S. national interests.

On the streets of Baghdad people gathered around newspaper stands to read the latest poll results and peace and security seemed uppermost in their minds.

"We hope the Democrats will be kind to our people and understand our problems," said one woman. One man chimed in - "the Democrats are better than Bush's people [the Republicans], adding "we want security and peace in our country."

In northern Iraq, VOA's Benjamin Sand described the mood as "wait and see."

"Here in northern Iraq most people who have been following the election - and this is both local Iraqis and Americans," said Sand. "Very few people are willing to talk about what the Democrats' gains could mean for the country. I've spoken to several Kurdish politicians who say there are concerns the Democrats could push for a reduction in foreign aid or security operations in Iraq. Many U.S. officials here say they don't expect any immediate changes in policy, but they admit no one knows for certain exactly what is coming next."

The war in Iraq and the continuing Israeli-Palestinian violence have heightened anti-American sentiments in much of the Middle East.

In Cairo, Professor Hassan Nafae, head of the Political Science Department at Cairo University, says the election outcome shows the American people want change.

"I think this is a cry to stop the war in Iraq, to have an exit strategy, I think the Democrats will push towards the elaboration of an exit strategy," noted Professor Nafae. "This is how I understand the results of the elections."

In Asia, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe became the first foreign leader to issue an official reaction to the election outcome.

Mr. Abe said his government would not change its Iraq policy. Japan supported the invasion of Iraq and early on sent troops to help with reconstruction.