Page last updated at 08:55 GMT, Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Asia offers Obama a warm welcome

Students at the former primary school of US president-elect Barack Obama in Jakarta, Indonesia react to his victory on Wednesday
There were proud celebrations in Mr Obama's old school in Jakarta

Asian leaders welcomed the election of Barack Obama as the next president of the United States - as did the region's financial markets.

Some regional leaders said Mr Obama's victory in the US poll was the start of a new, more hopeful era.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said the victory represented a message of hope not just for America, but for the rest of the world as well.

Many regional stock markets rose sharply on the news.

Hong Kong's Hang Seng index initially increased by 5.2% and Japan's Nikkei 225 stock average jumped by 4.5%.

Indonesia's pride

The Australian prime minister's hope that Mr Obama's victory would help solve pressing global problems was shared by other leaders in the Asia-Pacific region.

Senator Obama will be taking office at a critical juncture. There are many pressing challenges facing the international community, including the global financial crisis and global warming
New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark

Japan's Prime Minister Taro Aso said problems involving the world economy, terror and environment needed resolving.

Meanwhile Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said: "Indonesia hopes the US can take concrete measures to settle the global economic crisis and the financial crisis in the United States."

There was a special air of pride and celebration in Jakarta, reports the BBC's Lucy Williamson - where Mr Obama spent four years of his childhood in Indonesia, and many hope he will understand the Muslim world better as a result.

Hundreds of people joined an election countdown organised by the US embassy in Jakarta, and many others watched the results come in on television and radio.

'New period of history'

The South Korean presidential office issued a statement saying Mr Obama's vision of change and hope was shared by its own President Lee Myung-bak.

Even China's President Hu Jintao said this was a "new period of history" when he contacted Mr Obama to offer his congratulations.

"It is of great importance to develop a healthy, long-term and stable Sino-US relation," he told Mr Obama, according to a statement released by China's Foreign Ministry.

New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark said: "Senator Obama will be taking office at a critical juncture.

"There are many pressing challenges facing the international community, including the global financial crisis and global warming."

The optimism shown by regional political leaders was shared by the main money markets, although analysts warn that the financial crisis means the outlook for the global economy remains grim.



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