Kofi Annan: America will re-engage with the world

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The Independent Online

Watching the momentous events in Washington unfold from a distance, it is difficult to hold back a tear.

The inauguration of President Barack Obama marks a dramatic change of leadership in the United States of America which I am witnessing with great emotion. It is an historic event; one I had not expected to see in my lifetime. It has been rightly celebrated around the globe, from the villages of Africa to the chancelleries of Europe.

Mr Obama assumes the Presidency of the United States of America at a time of great global challenges, from the financial crisis to the food crisis, to climate change and major conflicts.

The economic downturn has shown how deeply interconnected our world has become.

I am confident that his administration will take a fresh look at dealing with America's relations with the rest of the world. When he says that America is ready to lead once more, I welcome that.

But under his leadership, America will, by all accounts, re-engage with the international community in a much more constructive way. We all hope President Obama will provide the impetus for reinvigorated multilateralism. It is time for us to look afresh at how we collectively confront international problems and come up with solutions.

It is only through multilateral co-operation that we can find durable and equitable solutions to these problems. And American engagement and leadership on these issues is crucial.

There is considerable latent goodwill towards the US. I am convinced President Obama will be able to draw on this support and restore the reputation and standing of the US in the community of nations. The world is eager to work in partnership for a more stable, equitable and prosperous future.

I send my sincere and warm wishes to President Obama, his family, Vice-President Biden and their fellow Americans as they embark on a new and exciting journey. His election was a testimony to his exceptional leadership abilities. Above all, his presidency demonstrates America's extraordinary capacity to renew itself and adapt to a changing world.

Kofi Annan was UN secretary general from 1997 to 2006. He now heads the Kofi Annan Foundation