Bush Offers Lula Congratulations

President Bush called Brazil's newly elected president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, to congratulate him Monday on his weekend victory.

"The president told President-elect da Silva he looked forward to working with him, especially with regard to advancing democracy, good governance and free trade in the hemisphere," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said.

"We look forward to working with Brazil. We consider our relations with Brazil to be good relations."

Bush placed the call aboard Air Force One while making a Western-state political swing after attending the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Mexico.

"We enjoy our excellent relationship. We share many mutual interests and goals," he said.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said in Washington, "We hope to engage Brazil's new leadership at the earliest opportunity and work together with President-elect Silva in ... building a strong partnership."

Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill predicted that Silva, the first elected leftist leader in Brazil, would move quickly to reassure financial markets that his government plans to follow sound economic policies.

"The markets are going to look very carefully at what he does today, tomorrow and the next week, to provide reassurances that he's not a crazy person and that he's going to follow good policies that will create stability for the Brazilian currency and assure the international financial markets that they will honor their debts," O'Neill told an audience in Greenville, S.C.

Brazil's currency hit record lows this summer as investors became increasingly concerned Silva would abandon the economic reforms pursued by current President Fernando Henrique Cardoso and default on Brazil's massive foreign debt.

To bolster confidence, the United States supported a decision by the International Monetary Fund in August to provide Brazil with new assistance of up to $30 billion, a record amount for an IMF loan.

IMF Managing Director Horst Koehler said in a statement Monday that his agency looked forward to working with Silva's government "to help create the conditions that would lead to sustained growth in Brazil."

Koehler said he hoped to meet with Silva and his economic team at the earliest opportunity and he said the size of Silva's victory margin presented the new government "with a historical opportunity to meet the economic and social aspirations of the people of Brazil."

Fleischer also offered an American tip of the hat to Brazil's outgoing president.

"The United States appreciates President Fernando Henrique Cardoso's friendship with the United States, his work to strengthen the bilateral relationship and his strong leadership in the hemisphere and beyond," Fleischer said in a statement.

"We wish him well and look forward to continuing to work with him until the end of his presidency."