Asian allies warmly welcomed US President George Bush's second term, while North Korea - one of the "outposts of tyranny" identified by US officials - condemned the United States as a "wrecker of democracy as it ruthlessly infringes upon the sovereignty of other countries."

"We have listened to a message that made the usual references to the traditional strong American values," said Germano Dottori, a political analyst at the Center for Strategic Studies in Rome.

"Only in the next few months, we will be able to say how much of the speech was pure rhetoric and how much is real substance."

Freedom

In Britain, some newspapers noted that Bush said freedom 27 times in his speech but never mentioned Iraq.

"The biggest contrast of all (was) between the smug complacency of the administration over its electoral victory and the disastrous military failure of its adventure in Iraq," former British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook wrote in The Guardian newspaper.

Critics pointed out that Iraq was
not mentioned once in the speech

"Iraq was the flagship project of the Bush administration and has turned into its greatest disaster. Yesterday's jollities cannot conceal the brutal truth that they neither know how to make the occupation succeed nor how to end it without leaving an even worse position behind," Cook wrote.

The Spanish daily El Mundo noted Bush's frequent references to freedom and liberty.

"It's certainly worrying not to be able to distinguish yet how this inflamed rhetoric will be carried out," El Mundo said. "It's difficult to dissociate this liberating mission from the list of six countries -'outposts of tyranny' - that was advanced by Condoleezza Rice, especially since Iraq was not mentioned in the entire inauguration speech."

EU positive

A European Union official was positive about the signals from the president.

"We welcome the indication that he has given of the willingness of the Bush Administration to have strengthened relations with the European Union," EU spokeswoman Francoise Le Bail said in Brussels.

Bush will visit Brussels on his first
foreign trip in his new term

"The fact that President Bush should be making his first trip abroad in his second term of office to Europe, to Brussels, is a sign we believe, of the importance the president and his administration gives to relations with the EU."

But the Dagsavisen newspaper in Oslo, Norway, was skeptical.

"After being a president who created splits, he wants to unite. We'll see," it said.

New Cold War?

"I got the feeling the US is turning the clock back toward the early Cold War era," said Yoshikazu Sakamoto, professor emeritus of international relations at Tokyo University. "I think it's become clear that the US may take a multilateral approach toward its allies, but it will impose the American way toward non-allies."

Bush said he would not shrink from "the great objective of ending tyranny" around the globe, but didn't single out any countries.

"The hidden message is that if North Korea doesn't resolve its nuclear problem, the United States is willing to attempt a toppling and changing leaderships in North Korea," said Park June-young, a political scientist at Ewha Woman's University in Seoul, South Korea.

North Korea's hostile reaction was echoed in Lebanon by Shaikh Ahman Kurani, who spoke at Friday prayers on behalf of Ayatollah Shaikh Hussain Fadl Allah, spiritual leader of the nation's Shiite Muslims.

"Today, America seeks to promote its rotten goods in our Arab and Islamic world," Kurani said. "It claims that it wants to reform the Arab and Islamic worlds while it spreads it corruption in all directions. America doesn't want the Arab world to be anything other than its lackey."

Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf pledged continued support for Washington's anti-terror campaign, said Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, the government's chief spokesman.

Japan had high hopes for Bush's second term as the leader of "the world's largest and most influential nation in the world," said Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda.