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Israeli Prime Minister-elect Ariel Sharon
"This is a great victory"
 real 56k

The Jerusalem Report's David Horovitz
"It is a landslide"
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The BBC's Frank Gardner in Cairo
"Sharon's election victory has left Arabs shaking their heads in amazement"
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The BBC's Nick Bryant in Washington
"Policy-makers here want to see what kind of government emerges in Israel"
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Wednesday, 7 February, 2001, 13:54 GMT
Cool welcome for Israel's new leader
Likud party supporters cheer Ariel Sharon's election victory
Most of the world was not so enthusiastic
There has been a cautious welcome from the West to the victory of Israeli right-winger Ariel Sharon in Tuesday's prime ministerial election, while the Arab world responded with a mixture of shock and defiance.

US President George W Bush congratulated Mr Sharon by phone, and said he looked forward to working with him to advance peace and stability in the Middle East.

If we judge Mr Sharon on past policies, the future of the peace process will be dark

Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa
US Secretary of State Colin Powell, who is due to visit the region this month, urged all parties to remain calm.

The Bush Administration's measured response is in keeping with the perception that the US will not be as involved in the region as it was under his predecessor, Bill Clinton.

Europe cool

European countries reacted with a mixture of hope and trepidation.

The European Union's foreign-policy chief, Javier Solana, appeared less than enthusiastic in his congratulations for Mr Sharon.

"For now, the only thing we have to say is that we are ready to co-operate with the person and the people who have been elected," he told the BBC.

The prime minister of Sweden, the country which currently holds the rotating EU presidency, said he hoped for continuing co-operation with Israel.

But French Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine expressed regret at Mr Barak's failure to achieve peace.

And Norway, which played a key role in the early stages of the peace process, expressed concern about the implications of Mr Sharon's victory.

"If Sharon implements what he said he would during the election campaign, there is every reason to fear what will happen," said Foreign Minister Thorbjoern Jagland.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said it believed Mr Sharon would "act in the interests of resolving the crisis", adding that "no reasonable alternative to a just overall Arab-Israeli peace settlement exists".

UK ready to help

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair offered his congratulations and said if Britain and the European Union could do anything to build a more stable future they would help.

UK Foreign Secretary Robin Cook
Robin Cook: Israel wants peace
UK Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, speaking in Washington, underlined the Israeli public's desire for peace.

"There is no doubting the fact that the majority of the people of Israel would like to see that peace settlement," he said.

"I hope it will be possible for us to take forward that common ground ... and see how we can build on it," he added.

Arab fury

The Arab press, meanwhile, was more vocal in its condemnation of Israel for electing the man Arabs call "the butcher of Beirut", while Arab politicians said they were reserving judgement.

"Extremism rules Israel today," declared the Jordanian newspaper Al-Aswaq.

Lebanese Information Minister Ghazi al-Aridi said the Israeli society was heading toward fanaticism and extremism.

We are setting up a Jerusalem army to liberate Palestine

Iraqi General Ali Hassan al-Majeed
President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, the first country to sign a peace treaty with Israel, said "We will wait and see what Sharon will do."

Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Mussa laid out two possibilities: "If we judge Mr Sharon on past policies, the future of the peace process will be dark.

"But if we consider that the new Israeli Prime Minister has a chance to adopt a new policy, that would open the way to a different atmosphere," he said.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was equally cautious: "We respect the decision of the Israeli people. We hope the peace process will continue."

In Iraq, the official reaction was sharply different.

"You should not ask me about a Zionist regime," General Ali Hassan al-Majeed told reporters.

"We are setting up a Jerusalem army to liberate Palestine," he said.

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07 Feb 01 | UK Politics
Cook pledges to work with Sharon
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