Washington: (Agencies-5/11/2008): Democratic Senator Barack Obama has been elected the first black president of the United States.
"It’s been a long time coming, but tonight… change has come to America," the president-elect told a jubilant crowd at a park in Chicago.
His rival John McCain accepted defeat, saying "I deeply admire and commend" Mr Obama. He called on his supporters to lend the next president their goodwill.
There are also elections to renew the entire US House of Representatives and a third of US Senate seats.
Democrats are expected to expand majorities in both chambers.
They need to gain nine Senate seats to reach a 60-seat majority that would give them extra legislative power.
In the presidential vote, under the US Electoral College system, states are allocated votes based on their representation in Congress.
In almost every state, the winner gets all these college votes.
To become president, a candidate needs to win a majority across the country – 270 college votes out of a possible 538.
The presidential election has been the most expensive in US history – costing $2.4bn, according to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics.
African celebrations mark world reaction:
Reaction to Obama’s win ranged from jubilation to trepidation on the streets of the world’s capital cities as official congratulations from heads of state began to flow shortly after Republican candidate John McCain conceded the election.
Obama, the son of an economist from Kenya, is wildly popular across Africa. Many people hope an Obama presidency will help this vast continent, the poorest in the world. Some are looking for more U.S. aid to Africa; others simply bask in the glory of a successful black politician with African roots.
Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki said "The election of Senator Barack Obama to the presidency of the United States has taken the American people and the rest of the world with them into a new era – an era where race, colour and ethnicity, I hope, will also disappear… in politics in the rest of the world,"
The European Union applauded Wednesday the US election victory by Democratic candidate Barack Obama, with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso calling for a "new deal".
Typical of the skepticism that has dogged Obama’s candidacy in Israel was a headline in the Haaretz newspaper on the eve of the election. It read: "So is Obama a Danger to Israel After All?"
Spokesmen of both Fatah and Islamic Hamas movements agreed on Tuesday that there is no difference between the two candidates, the Republican Barak Obama, and the Democrat John McCain who race in the U.S. elections to the White House.
In Baghdad, Iraqi foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari said today Washington would not adopt a "quick disengagement" policy with Baghdad under the presidency of Barak Obama as a great deal is at stake here.
“It’s America showing some maturity,” said Greg Ryan, 38, a financial planner in Sydney, Australia, adding Obama will be a more “peaceful” president than George W. Bush. “America’s gone too far down that world policeman thing.”
Many Americans said they felt they were voting in a historic election, not least because of the possibility of choosing the first African-American president.
Faton Fall, 40, a black voter queuing at a Baptist church in Chicago, said: "It means a lot to me. I’m overwhelmed. I can’t say more."