Wednesday, June 14, 2006


Poll: U.S. in Iraq Clouds Mideast Stability

The Associated Press
Tuesday, June 13, 2006; 4:46 PM

WASHINGTON -- The presence of U.S. troops in Iraq is a greater threat to Mideast stability than the government in Iran, according to a poll of European and Muslim countries.

People in Britain, France, Germany, Spain and Russia rated America's continuing involvement in Iraq a worse problem than Iran and its nuclear ambitions, according to polling by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. Views of U.S. troops in Iraq were even more negative in countries like Indonesia, Egypt, Jordan, Turkey and Pakistan.

America's image rebounded in some countries last year after the U.S. offered aid to tsunami victims, but those gains have disappeared, the Pew poll found.

For example, 52 percent of Russians had a favorable view of the U.S. in 2005, but that slipped to 43 percent in 2006. In India, 71 percent had a favorable view and that slipped to 56 percent this year. In Spain, the favorable rating slipped from 41 percent last year to 23 percent this year.

In Indonesia, the percentage with a favorable view of the U.S. dropped from 38 percent to 30 percent this year. Fewer than a third of the people in Egypt, Pakistan, Jordan and Turkey had a favorable view of the U.S.

Iraq is one of many issues that pushes a negative view of the U.S., said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center.

"Last year we saw some good news in countries like Russia and India," Kohut said. "That good news being wiped away is a measure of how difficult a problem this is for the United States.

"Western countries share some points of view," Kohut said, noting mutual concerns about Iran's development of a nuclear program and the victory of Hamas in Palestinian elections. "But Iraq continues to be divisive."

Iran's nuclear program is seen as a serious threat by international leaders, who have been pressuring Iran to drop that program. Leaders of the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany have offered Iran, which says its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, incentives to suspend uranium enrichment.

But the war in Iraq trumps the Iranian situation as a perceived danger to the world at a time when the image of the United States and its war on terrorism continues to drop internationally.

The 15-nation poll also found:

_Overall support for the U.S.-led war on terrorism has declined even among close allies. Support for the war on terror has dropped in Britain from 63 percent in 2004 to 49 percent now.

_Favorable opinions of the United States continue to fall, with sharp declines in Spain, Turkey and India.

_People in the United States and European countries are far more likely than those in Muslim countries to view the victory of Hamas in the Palestinian elections as a negative development.

_Western European nations and predominantly Muslim nations have sharply different views on Iran, which the U.S. claims is developing nuclear weapons.

_Majorities in 10 of 14 foreign countries _ including Britain _ say the Iraq war has made the world more dangerous.

_Concern about global warming is low in China and United States, the two largest producers of greenhouse gases, while high elsewhere.

The polling in 15 countries of samples ranging from about 900 to 2,000 adults was conducted in April and May and has a margin of error ranging from 2 to 6 percentage points. The polling included Muslim oversamples in the European countries. In China, India and Pakistan, the polling was based on urban samples.

The nations in which polling was conducted were China, Egypt, France, Germany, Great Britain, India, Indonesia, Japan, Jordan, Nigeria, Pakistan, Russia, Spain, Turkey and the United States.


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