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In an anti-Bush world, key backers

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The Russian public is split 52-48 for Bush in the US contest, according to a Moscow News poll. But Putin has robustly backed Bush's terror war, partly out of a desire to do fierce battle with Chechen insurgents - without outside criticism. Bush has largely obliged. And when Putin recently introduced reforms that some considered an authoritarian power-grab, the White House didn't balk.

However, "If Democrats come to power, they are more likely to intervene in Russia's internal affairs," highlighting democratic lapses or human-rights abuses, says Sergei Rogov, director of the official Institute of USA-Canada Studies in Moscow.

At least one top Iranian mullah has a similar view. "We haven't seen anything good from Democrats, so we won't be happy if the Democrats win," said Hasan Rowhani recently. He heads Iran's Supreme National Security Council and referred to sanctions imposed by President Clinton and poor relations with the US under Presidents Kennedy and Carter.

Republican Ronald Reagan's White House, meanwhile, set up the Iran-contra deal, by which Iran received weapons in exchange for lobbying for the release of American hostages in Lebanon. More recently, Bush removed two traditional Iranian enemies - Afghanistan's Taliban and Iraq's Saddam Hussein. But a President Kerry might be more effective in leading an international effort for tougher sanctions because of Iran's apparent quest for nuclear weapons.

Despite Bush's "axis of evil" talk, Iranian leaders see Republicans as "people we can do business with, but Democrats keep bugging us about democracy" and nuclear proliferation, says Mr. Kupchan.

There's a similar sentiment in Colombia, where terrorism and trade dominate. Popular President Alvaro Uribe has invoked the war on terror to mount a successful offensive against the country's leftist rebels. He's relied heavily on US help via the antidrug and antiterror "Plan Colombia," which has been beefed up under Bush. The US Congress last month doubled the number of US troops allowed in Colombia to 800, no small feat with American forces overstretched around the world.

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