Mr Howard, who is on holidays, made a brief phone call to the two-time presidential winner shortly after President Bush declared victory over his Democratic rival Senator John Kerry.

A spokesman for Mr Howard said the two leaders are looking forward to meeting again at the APEC meeting in Chile at the end of the month.

In reply, the US Ambassador Tom Schieffer said the United States would continue to share a close relationship with Australia which had been strengthened by the strong ties forged between Mr Howard and the President.

“I think this president and this prime minister have a relationship that is unique and has been closer than any other president and prime minister have had in the past,” Mr Schieffer told reporters.

The Ambassador said it was a great result for the US because it was a decisive victory.

“The president got 51 percent of the (popular) vote, that’s the first time in 12 years that the candidate for president has received 51 percent of the vote,” he said.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said that he had tipped George W Bush to win, but had anticipated a closer race.

According to Mr Downer, the Iraq war had not had a significant impact at the polls, despite being unpopular, because people realised they could not cut and run.

John Anderson is acting prime minister while Mr Howard is vacationing.

Mr Anderson offered his congratulations to Mr Bush, saying Australia is keen to finalise the free trade agreement with the United States.

Mr Anderson said that he expects President Bush to maintain his focus on the war against terrorism and the American economy in his second term.

In Canberra, the leader of the federal opposition Mark Latham echoed the government’s sentiments and said the Labor party was ready to work with the Bush administration.

“The Australian Labor Party congratulates George W Bush on his re-election as president of the United States of America,” Mr Latham said in a statement.

“Labor is strongly committed to the US-Australia alliance as a fundamental pillar of our foreign and international security policy,” he said.