%mlink(STRY:; PHOTO:LON125-112901; AUDIO:%)

LONDON (AP) _ Prime Minister Tony Blair's popularity, boosted by his strong stance against terrorism, is now higher than the rating enjoyed by Margaret Thatcher during the Falklands conflict, according to an opinion poll published Friday.

The MORI poll for The Times newspaper found that 64 percent of British adults surveyed are satisfied with the way Blair is leading the country, with 28 percent saying they were dissatisfied.

The net balance of plus 36 points compares with Thatcher's peak rating of plus 23 points in June 1982, after British forces had retaken the Falkland Islands after an invasion by Argentina.

According to the survey, Blair's image as a leader has strengthened since April, just before the start of the general election campaign.

His rating as a capable leader has risen from 33 to 51 percent. Those who say he is good in a crisis have increased from 15 to 44 percent.

Support for military action in Afghanistan has also risen since early November, from 65 to 70 percent.

The British public also backs President Bush's handling of the crisis, with 66 percent saying he is doing a good job compared with 24 percent disapproving.

Sixty-four percent of those polled agree that the approach taken by Blair and Bush is helping to make the world a safer place, with 26 percent disagreeing.

MORI surveyed 1,032 adults between Nov. 22-27. No margin of error was given.