LONDON -- The Republican victories in U.S. midterm elections drew expressions of concern Wednesday from many foreign countries that a triumphant and less-fettered Bush administration will have a full green light to wage war against Iraq.
The verdict on the electoral verdict was largely predictable: the fears of those already alarmed by U.S. military power were compounded; others, noting that Democrats in both houses had already given Bush the authority to commit U.S. forces against Iraq, dismissed the result as irrelevant.
While officials in Israel said the elections would make little difference, Arab political analysts said they feared GOP control of both houses of Congress would lead to fewer checks on policies toward Iraq and Israel that have drawn widespread opposition in the world.
"The first reaction is not positive," said Abdel Monem Said Aly, director of the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo. "To consolidate this administration with a majority in both houses tells us we probably will not get the most wise decisions from Washington in the next few years."
An Arab diplomat in Cairo said he worried the Democrats' loss of the Senate would mean "a green light for invading Iraq."
In Kuwait, where hatred of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein runs deep because of the 1990 Iraqi invasion, Fouad al-Hashem, a columnist for Al-Watan newspaper, said he was overjoyed with the GOP's success.
In Germany, where relations with the Bush administration have been chilly in recent months over the Iraq issue, Bela Anda, spokeswoman for Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, said, "Naturally the chancellor will congratulate the president in an appropriate manner."
Bush had pointedly not congratulated Schroeder on his re-election victory in September because of the perceived anti-American tone of the campaign, in which the German leader vehemently opposed military action against Iraq. Some German officials are hoping Bush will accept a congratulatory phone call from Schroeder, which would be the first time the two leaders have talked since the German elections.
Other European officials depicted the vote as a purely internal American affair, with little relevance to foreign affairs in general and Iraq specifically. "Bush seemed to be going ahead, whatever the election's results," said an official in the Italian foreign ministry.
In London, officials of Prime Minister Tony Blair's government, which has been Bush's strongest foreign supporter, said they did not believe the results meant war was inevitable. They cited Washington's support for a new UN Security Council resolution on weapons inspections as demonstrating the administration's commitment to first seeking a diplomatic solution.
Others were less sanguine. Robert Worcester, chairman of the MORI polling company, said he attended a private luncheon here at which politicians, businessmen and journalists "were unanimous in expressing worry because of President Bush's perceived lack of understanding or consideration for European public opinion and sensibilities."
Neither Bush's politics nor his personal style translate well outside the United States, Worcester said: "They don't like Texans, they don't like oil people, they don't like Stetson hats and cowboy boots. His whole approach just alienates them. And this result just increases their fears."
Some officials and analysts suggested that Bush's triumph would give him greater freedom on other issues as well. Russian, Canadian and Mexican commentators said they hoped the president would now ease trade restrictions on their countries, and Mexicans said he might be less reluctant to reform immigration policies.
"I think it helps Mexico, because now President Bush will have an easier hand in doing what he wants to do," said political analyst Sergio Sarmiento. "He can't say now that he can't change immigration law because of the Democrats."
But when it came to Iraq, Sarmiento was also critical. "In terms of the world, this is dangerous because now Bush can do whatever he wants on Iraq," Sarmiento said.
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