While she has reshaped Britain at home, Margaret Thatcher has also put a forceful imprint on the international scene.

Her strong personality, coupled with Britain's economic comeback, has won her country a newfound measure of respect in foreign capitals.Thatcher scored her first foreign policy imprint soon after coming to office in 1979, when her government settled the seemingly intractable Rhodesia-Zimbabwe question in Africa. A treaty with China resolving the future of Hong Kong followed in 1984.

In 1982 she waged war with Argentina to recapture the Falkland Islands, a British colony, and in 1986 she allowed the United States to bomb Libya with aircraft based in Britain. Both were lonely decisions that gave some credence to the title the Kremlin had given her - The Iron Lady.

With President Ronald Reagan she found an instinctive affinity of shared background and ideology, and Britain is the most devoted U.S. ally in the Western world and there is no sign of any change now that George Bush is in the White House.

She was also the first major Western leader to gauge Mikhail S. Gorbachev's mettle when he visited Britain in 1984 as the Kremlin's No. 2 official. She called him a man "I can do business with."

The relationship has blossomed through mutual visits. Gorbachev clearly knows that the road to Western hearts and minds runs through Thatcher, who is staunchly anti-communist. For her part, she remains an unswervingly believer in nuclear deterrent and sees herself as a brake on any Western temptation to succumb to Gorbachev's charm and drop its nuclear guard.

In the Middle East and Africa, her visits win warm receptions on both sides of the respective divides.

Meanwhile, governments are eagerly studying the "privatization" policy Thatcher adopted to rid the state of loss-making industries. Britain happily exports its privatization know-how to Western as well as Marxist governments.

"We are not posing as a superpower," says Foreign Secretary Sir Geoffrey Howe.

The days of Rule Britannia may be gone forever, but in the weekly Economist's view, Thatcher has regained for Britain "the chance to suggest and shape policies rather than to react to them."