George Bush will be sworn in as president of the United States for a second term today in a lavish Washington ceremony, amid mounting international concern that his new administration will make the world a more dangerous place.
A poll of 21 countries published yesterday - reflecting opinion in Africa, Latin America, North America, Asia and Europe - showed that a clear majority have grave fears about the next four years.
Fifty-eight per cent of the 22,000 who took part in the poll, commissioned by the BBC World Service, said they expected Mr Bush to have a negative impact on peace and security, compared with only 26% who considered him a positive force.
The survey also indicated for the first time that dislike of Mr Bush is translating into a dislike of Americans in general.
Tony Blair, in an interview with the Guardian, expressed hope that Mr Bush's second term would prove to be more consensual than the first.
He said there had been an evolution in US policy, witnessed by him in successive conversations with Mr Bush.
"Evolution comes from experience," he said.
Mr Blair said that, as part of a learning process that began with the invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001, the US administration had reached the conclusion that "in the end, we can take security and military measures against terrorism but... the best prospect of peaceful coexistence lies in the spread of democracy and human rights".
Asked if Mr Bush had become a multilateralist, Mr Blair said he could not speak for the president but "it is significant, in my view, that he is coming to Europe as his first foreign visit".
Mr Bush is due in Europe at the end of next month.
The inauguration is taking place amid unprecedented security in Washington as luminaries from across the country converge on the capital.
Mr Bush spent the eve of the ceremony to mark the start of his second term shuttling between a series of events: from three candlelit dinners to thank his biggest campaign donors through to a "Celebration of Freedom" fireworks concert.
He described the elections in Afghanistan late last year and in Iraq planned for next week as "landmark events in the history of liberty".
Mr Bush also proclaimed his inauguration as "a sign of hope for freedom-loving people everywhere".