Waiting for the US Foreign Policy Sea Change | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 09.11.2006
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Europe

Waiting for the US Foreign Policy Sea Change

Foreign opponents of the war in Iraq on Wednesday cheered the prospect of a Democratic-controlled US Congress, while allies of President George W. Bush pondered the possibility of a major shift in US foreign policy.

President Bush in contemplative mood

President George W. Bush has much to think about after losing Congress to the Democrats

Staunch backers of the US invasion of Iraq, such as Japan, insisted they would remain steadfast in their support despite the key role that the Bush administration's handling of the conflict played in the Democrats' resounding victory in Tuesday's mid-term Congressional elections.

"Japan's support for Iraq will not change," Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters.

"The international community has worked to rebuild Iraq. Japan will continue to do what we can," said Abe, who took office in September. His predecessor, Junichiro Koizumi, had taken the landmark step of deploying Japanese troops to Iraq.

Japanese opposition leaders saw the election result as a major slap in the face for Bush and warned Abe against pursuing what they described as Koizumi's slavish support for the US president.

Bush has been severely judged

"President Bush, who was an ally of former Prime Minister Koizumi, has been severely judged by his people," said Mizuho Fukushima, head of the Social Democratic Party.

Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi at the European Parliament

Prodi suggests that Iraq was a deciding factor

Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, who had labeled the Iraq war a "grave mistake" following his election earlier this year, said the conflict was chiefly responsible for the heavy losses suffered by Bush's Republican party.

"There were also a few problems in domestic politics, but these also came from the war in Iraq," Prodi was quoted as saying by the ANSA news agency.

Senate loss would lead to negotiations

If the Republicans lose control of the Senate as well as the House of Representatives, Bush "will certainly be a president who will have to negotiate everything with the opposition," Prodi added.

Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen, one of Washington's staunchest allies, acknowledged that the Iraqi issue had a "dominant influence" in the election result, and called on Bush and the new Congress to work together on key foreign policy issues.

"The world needs a determined and energetic United States," Rasmussen said, adding that he hoped "the president and Congress, under these new conditions, reach a common line on Iraq and Afghanistan."

Germany magnanimous over midterms

In Germany, a government spokesman rejected suggestions that the Republican defeat would cripple Bush's foreign policy for the remaining two years of the president's term.

German foreign affairs advisor Karsten Voigt

Karsten Voigt expects closer ties in the future

"Regardless of the outcome of the elections, the German government will continue to work with the US government and the US president," spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm told a press conference. "We do not see the US government's capacity to act on foreign policy affected by the outcome of the elections," he added.

But Karsten Voigt, a key advisor to Chancellor Angela Merkel on transatlantic issues, predicted that Washington would now be seen to lean more heavily on Europe for help with its foreign policy challenges.

"The Democrats have criticized President Bush for not listening enough to the Europeans, to the allies," Voigt said. "The president has already moved in this direction, especially towards the Europeans, but the Democrats will demand that he goes further."

EU socialists hail "beginning of the nightmare's end"

The second-largest bloc in the European Parliament, the Socialist Group sent a congratulatory message to the Democrats, hailing their victory as "the beginning of the end of a six-year nightmare for the world."

Martin Schulz, head of the Socialist Group in the EU parliament

Schulz and his Socialists welcomed the results

"Your victory will allow Europe and the United States to resume their partnership," Socialist Group president Martin Schulz said in the message.

Global finance markets wobbled on fears that the Democrat success could prompt less market-friendly policies in the world's biggest economy.

European indices eased off fresh five-year highs struck the previous day, while Japanese shares tumbled by more than one percent, as investors also feared that a split in power in Washington would create legislative gridlock.

Mixed reactions in Iraq

In Iraq itself, there was mixed public mixed reaction to the election result.

Qais Abu Ahmed, a middle-aged Sunni employee in the housing ministry, said he preferred the Republicans to stay in power because the Iraqi army itself was still too weak to ensure security in the country.

US troops attend the scene of a car bombing in Iraq

A US troop withdrawl would provoke mixed feelings

"Any withdrawal of the American army would be a big disaster. There would be at the very least a civil war, if not a major massacre the next day," he said.

Some Iraqis, however, saw in the Democrat victory the hope of an early US pullout.

"I want the withdrawal of the American army so that we Iraqis can sit down together and restore stability," said Ismail Khalil, an employee of the Shiite-run health ministry.

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