World leaders reach out to France's Hollande

European and world leaders reached out Monday to president-elect Francois Hollande, France's first Socialist head of state in 17 years, despite jitters about his pledge to renegotiate Europe's austerity pact.

The euro sank and stock markets fell as the results of the presidential vote in France and Greece's general election stoked anxiety about the fate of austerity policies designed to end the eurozone's crippling debt crisis.

US President Barack Obama telephoned Hollande to congratulate him and invite him to the White House this month following his humiliating defeat of outgoing right-winger Nicolas Sarkozy in Sunday's second-round election.

Obama "indicated that he looks forward to working closely with Mr Hollande and his government on a range of shared economic and security challenges," White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel also wasted no time in contacting Hollande once his victory was confirmed even though she had made no secret of her support for his right-wing predecessor and EU fiscal pact architect Sarkozy.

Merkel, Sarkozy's closest European ally, invited Hollande to Berlin for talks, and her Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle told reporters: "We will work together on a growth pact. I am confident the Franco-German friendship will be further deepened."

Hollande has called on the eurozone to broaden its focus from austerity to incorporate growth, a message he repeated in his victory speech, declaring "Austerity can no longer be the only option."

European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso said he shared Hollande's goal for jumpstarting Europe's economy.

"We clearly have a common objective: relaunching the European economy to generate durable growth," he said. "We must now transform these aspirations into concrete actions."

Britain's Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron, who had backed Sarkozy at the beginning of the election campaign, also vowed to work with Hollande to strengthen the Franco-British relationship, a spokesman said.

Cameron's domestic austerity drive, however, is at odds with the incoming French president's belief in government-driven growth.

Spain's conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, whose own spending cuts have sparked street protests in a country suffering recession and a 24-percent jobless rate, said it was his "obligation" to get along with Hollande.

"Mr Hollande has won and it is my obligation to get along with him and try to work together for the benefit of Spain, France and Europe," Rajoy said on Spanish radio, adding that he was due to speak to Hollande on Monday.

Belgium's Socialist Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo, the only EU leader to come to France during the campaign to support Hollande, offered his congratulations and European budget discipline had to go hand-in-hand with an ambitious growth strategy.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti said he hoped for close cooperation aimed "at an increasingly efficient and growth-oriented union" between the two neighbours.

In Asia, Chinese President Hu Jintao sent a message of congratulations and Bejing said it was ready to work with France to develop relations "from a strategic and long term perspective".

"China believes that maintaining a positive momentum of the healthy and steady development of China-France relations not only serves the fundamental interests of the two countries and two peoples, but also world peace, stability," foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said.

Japan congratulated Hollande but said it will "carefully monitor" how Europe reacts to his election as the continent grapples with the debt crises.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura described France as an "important partner", noting that health of the European economy "greatly affects" the fate of the ailing Asian giant.

"We believe the European debt crisis is in the process of emerging out of the critical condition it was in last year. But it does not allow for optimism."

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he was hoping for a change in relations with Paris, which have been dogged by French opposition to Ankara's efforts to join the EU and French legislation on Armenian genocide.

"We hope the new era in france will be very different to the previous period in terms of Franco-Turkish relations," he said, voicing hope that "populist messages" during the election campaign would not translate into policy.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed hope friendly ties would continue.

"I look forward to a meeting with him to continue this important relationship -- important bilaterally and internationally," he said.

Latin American nations also sent messages of congratulations, led by economic powerhouse Brazil.

"France and Brazil are united by ambitious bilateral projects... I'm sure that we will continue this cooperation in the next years," President Dilma Rousseff said.

Other left-leaning leaders including Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez also congratulated Hollande's "clear victory" over Sarkozy.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan's office said his win was "not only a triumph of democracy but also a clear testimony to the maturity and age-long tradition of democracy in France".

It voiced hope that under Hollande, France would "remain a strong supporter of global action to promote democracy, good governance and rapid socio-economic development in Africa".

In Tunisia, President Moncef Marzouki said his country wanted to strengthen ties with its former colonial master under Hollande.

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