usa after the election - changing administration

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    US President George W Bush has settled down to business as usual after his decisive re-election.

    Mr Bush immediately vowed to continue to pursue the war on terrorism and to earn the trust of a country divided by a bitter election campaign.

    Mr Bush looks set for second-term changes in his Cabinet, with Attorney-General John Ashcroft, 62, and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, 59, reportedly likely to step down for personal reasons.

    Other members of the Bush Cabinet expected to leave their posts in the next four years are Secretary of State Colin Powell, 67, and Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, 72.

    Mr Bush claimed victory after Democratic challenger John Kerry finally conceded the first presidential race since the devastating terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

    Senator Kerry had held out for hours in the vain hope he could pull out a miracle win in the pivotal state of Ohio.

    His concession in an excruciatingly close contest averted fears of a repeat of the 2000 debacle that went to the US Supreme Court before Mr Bush was declared the winner.

    This year President Bush won big, capturing a majority of the popular vote and spearheading a successful Republican drive to expand the party's control of both houses of Congress.

    In a victory speech to cheering supporters, Mr Bush promised to prosecute the global fight against terrorism "with every resource of our national power" and with "good allies".

    'New season of hope'

    At the same time, he reached out to the 55 million Kerry voters, speaking of a new "season of hope" and appealing for help in uniting a country polarised by months of hostile campaigning and the war in Iraq.

    "I will need your support and I will work to earn it," he said. "I will do all I can do to deserve your trust. A new term is a new opportunity to reach out to the whole nation."

    Earlier, Senator Kerry had sounded a similar note of reconciliation as he sought to console his devastated supporters in Boston.

    "Today, I hope that we can begin the healing," he said. The Senator added that when he phoned Mr Bush to concede defeat: "We talked about the danger of division in our country and the need, the desperate need for unity, for finding the common ground, coming together."

    Mr Bush won the popular vote 51-48 per cent with a 3.5 million vote margin, a sweet reversal of 2000 when he lost the nationwide tally to Democrat Al Gore but took a decisive majority of electoral votes awarded in separate state contests.

    At the Republicans' victory rally, Vice President Dick Cheney said the result amounted to a "mandate" for the Bush campaign agenda which included a range of conservative social and economic policies from tax cuts to limits on stem-cell research.

    "We will uphold our deepest values of family and faith," Mr Bush said.

    The Republicans also scored big in the US Congress, adding four seats to the 51 they already controlled in the 100-member Senate and at least four to the 227 they held in the 435-member House of Representatives.

    -AFP

    Dave R.
 
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