M A I N   N E W S

Finally, Obama the winner
Ashish Kumar Sen writes from Washington

Barack Obama late on Tuesday declared himself the "Democratic nominee for the post of the President of the USA ," but his rival, Hillary Rodham Clinton, refused to concede.

With the last of the primary contests wrapped up, Obama has won the required number of delegates to wrap up his party's nomination and end a tough fight for it. Speaking at a victory rally in St Paul, Minnesota, Obama declared: "Tonight, we mark the end of one historic journey with the beginning of another - a journey that will bring a new and better day to America." He has made history by becoming the first black American to be the presidential nominee of a major U.S. party.

Obama was speaking at the same venue where the Republican Party will hold its presidential nomination convention in September. Arizona Senator John McCain is the presumptive Republican nominee. Both Obama and Clinton won one each of the last two Democratic primary contests on Tuesday. Obama picked up Montana, while Hillary won South Dakota, a largely symbolic victory.

Hillary told supporters in New York she would be "making no decisions tonight" about her future. She said she would meet her supporters and party leaders in the next few days to determine her next steps. She also asked people to go to her website to "share your thoughts with me and help in any way that you can."

"Now, the question is: Where do we go from here? And given how far we've come and where we need to go as a party, it's a question I don't take lightly," she said. But sources close to her campaign have indicated that she is open to the role of an Obama running mate. Clinton told supporters: "I want the nearly 18 million Americans who voted for me to be respected." She has won some big victories in the Democratic contests and the speculation will put pressure on Obama to consider her for the role.

Obama paid tributes to Clinton's candidacy, saying "Senator Hillary Clinton has made history in this campaign not just because she's a woman who has done what no woman has done before, but because she's a leader who inspires millions of Americans with her strength, courage, and commitment to the causes that brought us here tonight." Clinton, in turn, praised Obama for having "inspired so many Americans to care about politics and empowered so many more to get involved."

Obama promptly took on McCain noting, "In just a few months, the Republican Party will arrive in St Paul with a very different agenda. They will come here to nominate John McCain, a man who has served this country heroically. ... My differences with him are not personal; they are with the policies he has proposed in this campaign." He added it's "time to turn the page on the policies of the past."

"While John McCain can legitimately tout moments of independence from his party in the past, such independence has not been the hallmark of his presidential campaign," Obama said. "It's not change when John McCain decided to stand with George Bush 95 per cent of the time, as he did in the Senate last year." McCain earlier portrayed himself as a candidate for the "right change" and criticised Obama for backing the "wrong change."



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