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World Leaders Express Hope As Joe Biden Is Sworn In As President

The U.S. Army Band "Pershing's Own" plays during the inauguration of Joe Biden as president of the United States, on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday.
The U.S. Army Band "Pershing's Own" plays during the inauguration of Joe Biden as president of the United States, on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday.

As the United States inaugurates Joe Biden as the 46th president, world leaders, citizens and former officials offered congratulations and expressed hope that the new administration will lead to better relations and reverse some of the policies of his predecessor.

"The United States is back. And Europe stands ready," Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, proclaimed in a tweet hours before the swearing-in on Wednesday.

She referred to Biden as "an old trusted partner," adding "I look forward to working together with Joe Biden."

European Council President Charles Michel echoed those sentiments. "American democracy has proven its strength and resilience. ... This will be — I hope — a day of peaceful transition," Michel said in a speech to the European Parliament on Wednesday. "Today is more than a transition. Today is an opportunity to rejuvenate our trans-Atlantic relationship, which has greatly suffered in the last four years."

In India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted his "warmest congratulations to @JoeBiden" and said "I look forward to working with him to strengthen India-US strategic partnership."

Meanwhile, Indian Hindu faithful gathered at a temple in Vice President Kamala Harris' ancestral village to offer prayers and celebrate her inauguration, nearly 10,000 miles away.

A priest washed a Hindu idol in milk as faithful rang the temple's bell in Thulasendrapuram, a village nestled in rice paddies 200 miles south of the Tamil Nadu state capital Chennai. Posters of Harris adorn walls there.

Harris' late maternal grandfather was born in the village, though he left for Chennai decades ago. Still, former neighbors herald Harris as their native daughter. She was born in California to an Indian mother and Jamaican father.

Harris is making history as the first Black and South Asian and first woman to become a U.S. vice president.

U.S. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and husband Doug Emhoff greet former U.S. President Barack Obama as they arrive to the inauguration of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday.
Alex Wong / Getty Images
U.S. Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and husband Doug Emhoff greet former U.S. President Barack Obama as they arrive to the inauguration of U.S. President-elect Joe Biden on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday.

"Today all the people in the village are very happy," a former neighbor told local TV. "We all are very excited. Kamala Harris inspires all the women in the village."

U.S. allies and adversaries will also watch the new administration closely for plans with Iran. Former President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal, imposed sanctions on the country and carried out an attack that killed a top Iranian military leader.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said he hopes Biden administration officials "sincerely return to the law and show their honesty in practice, we will also fulfill our own commitments," according to Iran's Press TV. Rouhani said the "ball is in Washington's court," Al Jazeera reported.

In Israel, officials praised Trump's policies while praising the new U.S. president as a longtime friend and voicing concern about him seeking a nuclear deal with Iran.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a video statement just as Biden was sworn in. Flanked by Israeli and U.S. flags, he congratulated Biden and Harris on their "historic inauguration," and addressed the U.S. president personally. "President Biden, you and I have had a warm personal friendship going back many decades. I look forward to working with you to further strengthen the U.S.-Israel alliance, to continue expanding peace between Israel and the Arab world and to confront common challenges, chief among them the threat posed by Iran. I wish you the greatest success."

Israeli Intelligence Minister Eli Cohen said on Israel Army Radio that, "We can't not say a big thank you to President Trump, the best friend Israel ever had in the White House since the founding of [Israel] with unprecedented achievements."

Regarding Biden, Cohen said, "We hear voices in the U.S. administration that are considering the Iran issue and talking about a deal ... any agreement with Iran won't be worth the paper it's written on."

Meanwhile, Palestinians vow to hold long overdue elections in an effort to reunite a divided Palestinian leadership and start a fresh chapter with Biden.

"The victory of U.S. President Joe Biden is one of the most important catalysts for holding elections during this period, in preparation for the entry of Palestinian-American relations in a new phase that may lead to the resumption of the political process," wrote former Palestinian cabinet minister Ashraf al Ajrami in the Palestinian daily Al-Ayyam.

There are signs of relief and optimism in Pakistan, with expectations that a Biden administration will offer a stabler path than the rocky years of the Trump presidency.

"Trump was unpredictable," says Javed Ashraf Qazi, a retired head of Pakistan's military intelligence agency, known as the ISI. "But Joe Biden has plenty of experience so one expects stability in the relationship."

During his presidency, Trump lashed out at Pakistan, including in his first tweet of 2018, where he accused Islamabad of harboring terrorists. He also cut off military aid, including a program to bring Pakistani military officials to the U.S., for education courses. That program was long seen as ensuring personal relationships between U.S. and Pakistani military officials, even in times of tension.

Speaking to local media network Geo ahead of the inauguration, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said Biden has nominated people who "understand the region very well," without specifying who he meant.

"Challenges will be there," he added. "We have to face the facts, but I believe Pakistan has a lot to offer."

In China, the state-run news agency Xinhua tweeted an editorial aimed at Biden's predecessor, without naming the new president: "Good Riddance, Donald Trump!"

Lauren Frayer contributed reporting from Mumbai; Diaa Hadid from Islamabad; Rob Schmitz from Berlin; Daniel Estrin from Jerusalem; Peter Kenyon from Istanbul.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.