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World Leaders, Public Welcome Obama to World Stage

Many ordinary citizens and world leaders alike are welcoming U.S. President Barack Obama's administration, and wondering what effect it will have on international relations.

In a congratulatory message, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he has great optimism about the presidency of Barack Obama, particularly his goals aimed at fighting climate change and finding alternative energy sources. He also lauded Mr. Obama's aims to work on improving agriculture and availability of clean water, fight hunger, and improve education.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak urged Mr. Obama to make the crisis in the Middle East an "urgent priority." Mr. Mubarak has been involved in efforts to negotiate a truce between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza.

Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said Mr. Obama should change U.S. policy in the Middle East to improve America's image in the region.

Cuban President Raul Castro Wednesday said Mr. Obama "seems like a good good man," and wished him good luck. Mr. Obama has pledged to ease limits on the number of trips Cuban-Americans can make to Cuba, and on the money they can send to relatives on the island.

While expressing a willingness to speak with Cuba's leaders, Mr. Obama has he will maintain the nearly 50-year-old embargo on the island as leverage to push for democratic change. Mr. Castro has expressed a willingness to discuss the issue with Mr. Obama.

Chinese state-run media expressed concern about the future of China-U.S. relations. An editorial in the official "China Daily" newspaper published Wednesday says President Obama's previous statements suggest he may see China as a competitor.

China's Defense Ministry called on Mr. Obama to improve military relations and halt weapons sales to Taiwan.

Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso said he is ready to work closely with Mr. Obama, particularly on efforts to confront the global economic crisis.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani expressed confidence that Mr. Obama will help the United States lead the way in overcoming the challenges confronting humanity. Washington considers Islamabad a major ally in the battle against terrorism.

Former South African leader Nelson Mandela said in a letter to Mr. Obama that the new president's inauguration inspired the same sense of hope the world felt when South Africa defeated apartheid.

Lawmakers in Britain erupted in cheers Wednesday when British Prime Minister Gordon Brown congratulated Mr. Obama during his weekly parliamentary address. Mr. Brown added that his nation, already a staunch ally, will strengthen its relationship with the United States.

Pope Benedict and the Dalai Lama also congratulated the new president.

In Kenya, people danced and sang in the village of Kogelo, where Mr. Obama's father was born. Many also watched the new U.S. president's swearing-in on a giant television screen in the country's capital, Nairobi.

In Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, one resident, Mowlid Abdi Abdullah, told VOA he hopes the first African-American U.S. president will help bring peace to Somalia, a nation plagued by Islamic militants and humanitarian disasters.