GAZA CITY/CAIRO - Arab governments and world leaders welcomed on Sunday the election of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Mursi as Egypt’s first president following the ouster of Hosni Mubarak.
Senior Hamas official Mahmud Zahar told AFP the victory was “a historic moment and a new era in the history of Egypt,” as Gazans cheered and fired volleys of celebratory gunfire in the streets of the coastal enclave.
Zahar called Mursi’s victory “a defeat for the programme of normalisation and security cooperation with the enemy,” referring to Israel.
The Palestinian Authority also congratulated Egypt’s president-elect.
“We congratulate Doctor Mohamed Mursi, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, on his win in the Egyptian presidential elections, and his election as president of Egypt,” Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat told AFP.
People were pouring into Gaza City’s streets in joy, gunmen were firing automatic weapons in the air, and mosque loudspeakers were ringing with prayers and praise to God. People were handing out candy on street corners.
Gaza is ruled by the Islamic group Hamas, a local offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood that draws inspiration from the Egyptian organization. Egypt’s ousted president, Hosni Mubarak, collaborated with Israel in a blockade of Gaza. Residents here are optimistic that the new Egyptian leader, Mohammed Mursi, will improve relations with the impoverished Palestinian territory.
The United Arab Emirates likewise welcomed Mursi’s victory, urging “stability” in the north African nation, which is the Arab world’s most populous, state news agency WAM reported.
The UAE, “welcomes the results of presidential elections (there) and respects the choice of the brotherly Egyptian people in their track of democracy,” said a foreign ministry statement carried by WAM.
The United States congratulated the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Mursi on his election as Egypt’s new president and urged his government to fulfill its role as a “pillar of regional peace.”
After a bitterly divisive election that pitted Mursi against Mubarak-era premier Ahmed Shafiq, the White House called on the newly elected leader to bridge a polarized nation.
“We believe that it is important for president-elect Mursi to take steps at this historic time to advance national unity by reaching out to all parties and constituencies in consultations about the formation of a new government,” spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement.
And after Mursi’s victory marked the first time Islamists have taken the presidency of the Arab world’s most populous nation, the White House called on the newly crowned leader to maintain Egypt’s long-standing role as regional powerbroker.
“We believe it is essential for the Egyptian government to continue to fulfill Egypt’s role as a pillar of regional peace, security and stability,” Carney said, in a veiled reference to hopes for continued cooperation with Israel.
Israel’s prime minister said his country respects the democratic election of Islamist Mohamed Mursi as Egypt’s president and wants to cooperate with the new government in Cairo. “Israel values the democratic process in Egypt and respects the results of the presidential election,” Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said in a statement.
“Israel hopes to continue cooperation with the Egyptian government on the basis of the peace treaty” signed by the two former enemies in 1979, his office added.