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In an anti-Bush world, key backers

A roundup from Monitor correspondents around the world.

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By most accounts President Bush is almost universally disliked, even reviled, around the world. Seven out of 10 French citizens would vote against him if they could. So would 68 percent of South Koreans and two-thirds of Australians.

On this election eve, Mr. Bush may be the least-liked American leader in history. Yet closer inspection reveals intriguing pockets of support for the US president.

Consider that Germany's biggest newspaper endorsed Bush last week, saying he's less "wobbly" than his Democratic challenger, Sen. John Kerry. Or that in Iran - part of Bush's "axis of evil" - a top cleric supports Bush, partly because Republicans are slower to slap sanctions on Iran for its nuclear ambitions or rights abuses.

Or that Japan's prime minister broke decades of protocol and effectively endorsed Bush, whose strategic worldview envisions Japan as the key Asian power broker. Or that Colombia's president backs Bush and has adopted his with-us-or-with-the-terrorists paradigm in an increasingly successful war against narco-rebels.

Support for Bush has become lens through which countries and their leaders now see the world, on everything from terrorism to free trade to human rights. "We're talking about islands of support for Bush," says Clifford Kupchan, vice president of the Nixon Center, a Washington think tank. And they're usually leaders or nations that have benefited from Bush's worldview. He cites Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, as a prime example.

Mr. Putin has criticized Bush over the Iraq war but said recently that attacks on US forces in Iraq by international terrorists are personally aimed at Bush. Their goal "is to inflict maximum damage on Bush, to prevent him from getting a second term," Putin said, adding, "If they succeed ... that would give an additional impulse to international terrorism and could lead to the spread of terrorism to other parts of the world."

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