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Abroad, fresh image of U.S.

Many see Obama, Clinton successes as fitting the ideals of US democracy and diversity.

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A straw vote conducted by the Spanish newspaper El Mundo has Senator Clinton edging Obama 51-49. But in a brief survey of five French and Spanish newspapers, columnists don't enthuse over Clinton, as she is not seen as someone fresh and new. Still she is described favorably as determined and as a consensus builder.

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In Japan, where US elections are sometimes taken more seriously than the election of the Japanese prime minister, the rise of Obama is as intriguing a subject as the romance between French President Nicolas Sarkozy and the Italian singer Carla Bruni.

"Obama-san is great," says Azusa Shiraishi, a sophomore at Seinan Gakuin University in Fukuoka. She compares Obama with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and thinks "he could bring different perspectives of the US to us as well as American people. That would be great."

Not surprisingly, in Kenya, where Obama's father started life as a goatherd, the public has followed every twist with a euphoric mixture of pride and envy. Ethnic clashes in the wake of Kenyan presidential elections have forced the US primaries into the background. But many Kenyans believe that Africa would benefit from an Obama presidency, moving the continent up the international agenda as well as promoting a feel-good factor.

"We always feel we are lower-class people," says George Anyango, who works at a shopping mall. "But if someone of Kenyan origin becomes president there, it will make us feel we are on the same level."

Obama is the favorite in the Arab world, not so in Israel, and has not been heard of much at all in China. People in Baghdad also seem to not have had the luxury of knowing much about the first serious candidate to oppose the war there. In Cairo, enthusiasm about the possible success of a black candidate with a Muslim name and a father from a third-world country is often tinged with conspiracy theories.

"I think it would be good for the world and America if an outsider won,'' says Mahmoud Zahar, a Hamas official in the Gaza Strip. "But surely this won't be allowed – the CIA or someone would assassinate him first."