Clinton says world "exhaling" with Obama at top

WASHINGTON Tue Jan 27, 2009 2:22pm EST

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton suggested on Tuesday the world was breathing a sigh of relief that President Barack Obama had replaced George W. Bush and was working to fix the damage he had caused.

In her first news conference as top U.S. diplomat, Clinton said excitement over the change in power was "reinforced time and time again" during her welcome calls in recent days with foreign counterparts.

"There is a great exhalation of breath going on in the world as people express their appreciation for the new direction that's being set and the team that is put together by the president," Clinton said.

"We have a lot of damage to repair."

Pressed, Clinton said her remarks should not be viewed as a wholesale repudiation of the Bush administration, adding there would be continuity on some policies.

"It not any kind of repudiation or indictment of the past eight years so much as an excitement and an acceptance of how we are going to be doing business," she said.

Many Arab and European allies opposed the Bush administration's invasion of Iraq and its human rights record, especially the treatment of terrorism suspects at the Guantanamo Bay prison, which Obama has promised to close within a year.

Clinton said, without being specific, there were areas of the world that also felt they had been either overlooked under Bush or had not been given the appropriate attention.

Generally, world leaders have praised Obama's election but analysts say his honeymoon could be short-lived as he tries to grapple with the global economic crunch, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Arab-Israeli conflict and other challenges.

Some allies have already shown resistance to Obama's early requests. For example, France has indicated it will not send more troops to Afghanistan and the European Union failed on Monday to agree to offer any concerted aid to help Obama close down Guantanamo Bay prison.

"In Europe and elsewhere, there is a disconnect between Mr. Obama's popularity and receptiveness to his likely policies," The Washington Post commented in an editorial on Monday.

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