Foreign Leaders Congratulate Obama on Historic Inauguration

World leaders extended their congratulations to Barack Obama Tuesday as he was sworn in as the nation's 44 president and first black commander-in-chief.

"With your election, the American people has vigorously expressed its faith in progress and in the future, as well as its resolve to have an open, new, strong and caring America, that you embody," French president Nicolas Sarkozy said in a statement issued just hours after Obama was sworn in.

"As you are entering office, I should like to convey to you, on my behalf and on the behalf of the people of France, my very best wishes for great success at the head of the American Nation," he said.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert also offered his well wishes to the new president, praising him as an inspiration to the rest of the world.

"The greatest democracy in the world has again proven that it is a beacon and example for many countries.  The entire state of Israel rejoices with the United States and welcomes President Obama, who took the oath of office this evening," Olmert said in a statement.

Olmert also thanked former President George W. Bush for the "friendship and closeness" that prevailed between Israel and the United States during his term of office.

A media adviser to Olmert -- speaking on behalf of the Israeli prime minister -- told FOX News that "the two countries have shared values and saw eye-to-eye on many issues on the global agenda."

"The United States, including both parties, has been a true and strong friend of the state of Israel over the years," the aide said.

Obama also got some heartfelt praise from anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela, who said his inauguration in Washington has inspired the same sense of hope the world felt when South Africa threw off apartheid and elected its first black president -- Mandela himself.

Mandela, in a letter released shortly after Obama took the oath of office, said people around the world were inspired by his inauguration in 1994 to believe that "injustice can be overcome." And he said Obama's presidency offers a similar hope.

"Your election to this high office has inspired people as few other events in recent times have done," Mandela wrote. "Amongst many around the world a sense of hopelessness had set in as so many problems remain unresolved and seemingly incapable of being resolved. You, Mister President, have brought a new voice of hope that these problems can be addressed and that we can in fact change the world and make of it a better place."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.