Israel Says Bright Future Awaits Relations with US

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on Wednesday congratulated Barack Obama on his electoral victory and urged him to speed up efforts to reach an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.

"President Abbas congratulates U.S. president-elect Barack Obama in his name and in the name of the Palestinian people and hopes he will speed up efforts to achieve peace, particularly since a resolution of the Palestinian problem and the Israeli-Arab conflict is key to world peace," his spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina said.

"President Abbas hopes the new administration will continue to make the peace efforts one of its top priorities," Rudeina said from Budapest, where Abbas was on a two-day visit.

In the meantime, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, a frontrunner in the race for the premiership, on Wednesday hailed Barack Obama as being deeply committed to Israel’s security.

Recalling Obama’s July visit, Livni said "the people of Israel felt he is a man who is deeply committed to Israel’s security and peace." 
 
Bright Future

"Israel hopes to pursue close strategic cooperation with the new administration and the new U.S. president, and hopes to further tighten the unshakeable ties between our two countries."

Livni is a leading candidate in the race for the February 10 elections that were called after scandal-plagued Prime Minister Ehud Olmert handed in his resignation.

Outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert also hailed Barack Obama’s electoral victory and said he was certain U.S.-Israeli ties would strengthen under his presidency.

"We have no doubt that the special ties between the two states will continue and strengthen under Obama’s presidency," Olmert said in a statement.

The Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Ygal Palmor earlier said that Israeli-U.S. relations face "a bright future".

"Israelis congratulate the two great friends of Israel, John McCain for his great campaign, Barack Obama for his historic victory," he said.

"We are certain the Israeli-American friendship faces a bright future," he added.
 
Learning from Mistakes

The Islamist Hamas movement, which governs the Gaza Strip, on Wednesday urged Barack Obama to learn from the "mistakes" of previous U.S. administrations in dealing with the Muslim and Arab worlds.

"He must learn from the mistakes of the previous administrations, including that of Bush which has destroyed Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine," said Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum.

"He must improve U.S. ties with the rest of the world rather than wave the big American stick," Barhum told AFP.

"We want him to support the Palestinian cause or at least not to be biased towards the Israeli occupation," he said.

"We have no problem establishing normal relations with the United States to explain our just cause," he said. The United States, like the European Union and Israel, considers Hamas a terrorist organization.

During a visit to Israel in July, Obama expressed support for Israel’s refusal to negotiate directly with Hamas, which seized power in Gaza in June 2007, ousting forces loyal to secular Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.
 
No Quick Changes

On the other hand, the Iraqi government on Wednesday said it will cooperate "sincerely" with U.S. president-elect Barack Obama to achieve the joint interests of the two countries.

The election of Barack Obama as president would not lead to a quick disengagement policy by Washington in Iraq as a "great deal is at stake here," Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said.

"We believe this is the decision of American voters. We respect their will. But there are many upcoming challenges," Zebari told reporters after Obama’s Republican opponent John McCain conceded defeat to the Democrat.

"We don’t think there will be change in policy overnight. There won’t be quick disengagement here. A great deal is at stake here," Zebari said, adding that Baghdad was looking for a "successful partnership" with Obama.

Obama promised during his campaigning to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq over a period of 16 months from when he takes over the White House in January 2009.

The movement of Iraq’s anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr welcomed Obama’s victory.

"We consider his victory as a wish of the American public to withdraw forces from Iraq. This is what we are looking for," said sheikh Saleh al-Obeidi, Sadr’s spokesman in the holy city of Najaf.

Sadr has been the strongest opponent of American forces in Iraq and launched two rebellions in 2004 against them in Najaf.
 
(Alarabiya.net and agencies)

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