US President George W. Bush began his second term in office at the White House yesterday after vowing in a tough inauguration speech to overthrow tyranny and spread freedom and democracy to the "darkest corners" of the world.
"I'm looking forward to putting my heart and soul to make this country as promising a place as it can be and the world as peaceful a place as it can possibly be," Bush said late on Thursday at one of nine inaugural balls he and first lady Laura Bush visited before returning to the White House.
Amid the pomp and ceremony of the 55th US presidential inauguration -- the first since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks -- thousands of protesters joined cheering well-wishers on Thursday along Bush's route from his swearing-in at the Capitol back to the White House.
"It is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world," Bush said.
In a televised speech moments after taking the oath of office under an unprecedented security blanket, Bush warned "the rulers of outlaw regimes" to ease restrictions on dissent and declared that victory over terrorism required promoting freedom around the globe.
Demonstrators jeered or turned their backs as his armored limousine led a slow convoy down Pennsylvania Avenue, some waving signs that read "Guilty of War Crimes" or "In fighting monsters, we are becoming one."
While Bush did not single out any countries for criticism, Vice President Dick Cheney said Iran was "right at the top of the list." Other aides have mentioned Belarus, Cuba, Myanmar, North Korea and Zimbabwe.
"As long as whole regions of the world simmer in resentment and tyranny, prone to ideologies that feed hatred and excuse murder, violence will gather, and multiply in destructive power, and cross the most defended borders and raise a mortal threat," Cheney said.
Bush, his first term scarred by terrorism and marked by wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, mentioned none of those crises by name as he offered conciliatory words to allies who broke with Washington over whether to oust former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein.
"All 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.
Bush, who has the worst approval ratings of any reelected president since Richard Nixon in 1973, told the polarized US public: "We have known divisions, which must be healed to move forward in great purposes, and I will strive in good faith to heal them."
First lady Laura Bush and twin daughters Barbara and Jenna stood at Bush's side as he swore on the steps of the US Capitol to defend the US and uphold the Constitution.
Bush said spreading freedom was "not primarily the task of arms, though we will defend ourselves and our friends by force of arms when necessary."
With his trademark optimism, Bush spoke of a fire that had been kindled in many people's minds, and vowed that "one day, this untamed fire of freedom will reach the darkest corners of our world."
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