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World waits to see how Bush will handle global issues

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- As George W. Bush prepares to assume the U.S. presidency, many of the world's nations are watching nervously for clues about how he might change America's international policies.

 

Although several leaders have said publicly that they look forward to good relations with Bush and the United States, some nonetheless are concerned about the perception -- whether accurate or not -- that the president-elect has a lack of experience with and knowledge of the world beyond U.S. borders.

Some also are concerned about statements Bush made on international policy during his presidential campaign, which they believe could strain relations if put into practice.

Peacekeepers and missile defense

For example, members of NATO, along with Russia, are worried about suggestions that Bush might pull U.S. peacekeeping troops out of the Balkans, and try to implement a space-based missile defense system. Russia's leadership, in particular, has said that going ahead with such a missile program would violate a 1972 ballistic missile treaty and plunge the United States and Russia once again into an expensive, dangerous arms race.

The missile issue also raises concern in China, where leaders fear that Bush might use a missile defense system to thwart the Communist mainland from asserting control over Taiwan. Chinese leaders will be watching the new administration carefully, as well, for any sign that it might sell arms to Taiwan. China considers Taiwan to be a renegade province and has threatened military action against the island if it declares itself an independent nation.

Other key issues in U.S.-China relations that Bush will likely have to approach include China's expected entry into the World Trade Organization and the sensitive subject of human rights. The United States has long been critical of how China deals with political dissidents and has based U.S. policy in large part on demands that China give its citizens more freedom. But China views the U.S. demands as unjustifiable interference in its internal affairs.

Elsewhere in Asia, Bush faces important strategic issues. India's relationship with Pakistan, and an ongoing dispute over the Kashmir region have brought the two countries into conflict in the past. India's military and economic clout add to its importance in U.S. international policy. Both India and Pakistan are nuclear powers. Analysts will try to gain a better understanding of Bush's position on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which he is said to oppose.

Middle East: Continuity or change?

In the Middle East, Israel is counting on Bush to continue the strong U.S. support that the Jewish state has had for decades. The Palestinians, however, want him to reassess American policy in the hope that they'll get more favorable treatment.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who faces an uphill election contest of his own in February, responded to the final result of the U.S. presidential election by saying that "similar values and joint interests" have long characterized U.S.-Israeli relations.

"I'm confident that President-elect Bush, whom I know and respect, will continue together with us in consolidating these ties," Barak said.

But Palestinian spokeswoman Hanan Ashrawi said she expects the United States, under the Bush administration, to conduct "a real assessment of where they went wrong" in the Mideast peace process.

Palestinians believe that America's credibility and interests in the region have been severely damaged because its approach to the peace process has been one-sided in favor of Israel, Ashrawi said.

While they expect U.S. support for Israel to continue, Ashrawi said Palestinians hope for greater understanding, and realization of their shared interests with Americans.

Mexico's Fox eager for meeting

Another nation hopeful for better relations with the United States is Mexico, which shares one of the world's longest borders -- and a troubled history -- with its neighbor to the north.

Mexico's government on Thursday officially called for closer ties and its new president, Vicente Fox, hopes to have a one- on-one meeting with Bush within the next several weeks at his ranch near the town of San Cristobal to discuss the three issues that dominate relations between the two countries: Immigration, drug trafficking and trade.

Jorge Castaneda, Mexico's foreign minister, said Fox wants such a meeting "to establish a new era in U.S.-Mexico relations."

Fox also wants to expand trade between the United States and Mexico, and some observers believe that's likely to happen with Bush as president.

"I think in the case of a Republican administration the emphasis will be more on the topic of commerce and investment than the environment or labor issues," political analyst Reynaldo Ortega told CNN.

CNN Chief International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour in London, Jerusalem Bureau Chief Mike Hanna in Moscow, Correspondents Lisa Rose Weaver in Beijing and Jerrold Kessel in Jerusalem, and Mexico City Bureau Chief Harris Whitbeck contributed to this report, written by CNN.com Writer Tom A. Hughes.


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Friday, December 15, 2000

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