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Inside Politics

Allies praise Bush's freedom call


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President Bush takes the oath of office Thursday outside the Capitol.
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(CNN) -- As George W. Bush was sworn in for a second term as U.S. president, his closest political allies around the world moved to congratulate him.

Australia and Japan, two countries that have backed Bush's military intervention in Iraq with their own forces, praised Bush's role on the world stage and his call for freedom to combat tyranny.

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said the experience built up by Bush over the past four years meant he would continue to "actively contribute to world peace and stability."

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said Australia supported President Bush's call for freedom, liberty and democracy.

"These are principles on which our country has been built, as well as the United States, and in fact they are amongst the most important values that bind our two countries together," Downer told Australian Broadcasting radio.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, considered America's closest ally in the war in Iraq, also spoke of the importance of democracy in securing world peace.

In an interview with the Guardian newspaper, Blair said: "We can take security and military measures against terrorism but... the best prospect of peaceful co-existence lies in the spread of democracy and human rights."

In his inaugural address on Thursday, Bush sought to reassure traditional allies, some of whom, such as France and Germany, have had cooler ties with the United States in recent years because of divisions over Iraq.

"The allies of the United States can know we honor your friendship, we rely on your counsel and we depend on your help," Bush said.

"Division among free nations is a primary goal of freedom's enemies. The concerted effort of free nations to promote democracy is a prelude to our enemies' defeat."

French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin said he hoped for stronger cooperation with Bush and his new team, and for a successful trip to Europe by the U.S. president in February that would advance transatlantic co-operation.

He said the French people had not forgotten what they owed America. "The American people are allies," he said.

During his speech, Bush indirectly referred to the Iraq war, saying that "because we have acted in the great liberating tradition of this nation, tens of millions have achieved their freedom. And as hope kindles hope, millions more will find it."

"We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world," Bush said. (Speech transcript)

'Equal dialogue'

Ahead of the Bush inauguration, China's state-run Xinhua news agency quoted Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan as saying China always supported the international community in making joint efforts to crack down on any form of terrorism.

Bush is due to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Slovakia on February 24. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Thursday the two leaders had "friendly, respectful relations based on an equal dialogue."

South Korea, which has also sent troops to Iraq in support of the U.S.-led effort there and is a key Asian ally, has particular concerns about U.S. foreign policy.

The government of President Roh Moo-hyun is focused on the resumption of six-party talks with North Korea, the country identified by Bush in 2002 as part of an "axis of evil" and by U.S. Secretary of State designate Condoleezza Rice this week as "an outpost of tyranny."

Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon told reporters Thursday he hoped Rice's remarks would not affect the resumption of six-party talks.

In Pakistan, chief government spokesman Sheikh Rashid Ahmed hailed Bush and pledged Islamabad's continuing support for the war on terror, The Associated Press reported.

The government of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon expressed confidence that Bush would continue to back the Jewish state.

Palestinian Authority representative to the United States Hasan Abdel Rahman told CNN Friday that he hoped Bush would work to secure the implementation of the Middle East roadmap.

A BBC World Service opinion poll released Wednesday indicated majorities in seven important countries thought less of Americans because of Bush -- led by Turkey with 72 percent, France 65 percent, Brazil 59 percent and Germany 56 percent.

However, Washington's contribution of funds and troops to help Asia recover from the December 26 tsunami disaster has raised hopes of another dimension to the U.S. image abroad.

"In recent weeks we have seem the humanitarian side of U.S. foreign policy ... This is something we would like to see more of," The AP reported Indonesian Foreign Ministry spokesman Marty Natelegawa as saying.

In Brussels, European Union officials have urged Washington to be more active on issues including the Middle East peace process, and to embrace the Kyoto treaty on global warming which Bush abandoned four years ago.

In Tehran, Iranian President Mohammad Khatami has played down the possibility of armed conflict with the United States over Iran's refusal to give up its nuclear program.

"We think America is not in a position to take a lunatic action of attacking Iran," Khatami said in an interview with Iranian Radio, AP reported.


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