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Discontent with US intensifies

March 23, 2004 10:04 IST

Discontent with the United States has intensified in European and Muslim countries, a year after the invasion of Iraq.

Opinion of the US in France and Germany is at least as negative now as at the war's conclusion, and British views are decidedly more critical, according to a survey by Pew Global Attitudes Project.

The survey, conducted between late February and early March in the US and eight other countries, shows that Muslim anger towards the US remains pervasive.

Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is viewed favourably in Pakistan (65%), Jordan (55%) and Morocco (45%).

About half of Pakistanis say suicide attacks on Americans in Iraq and against Israelis in the Palestinian conflict are justifiable, the report says. Even in Turkey, where bin Laden is highly unpopular, as many as 31% support this view.

A growing percentage of Europeans want foreign policy and security arrangements independent from the US. Across Europe, there is considerable support for the European Union to become as powerful as the US.

There has been little change in opinion about the war except in Britain, where support for the decision has plummeted from 61% last May to 43% in the current survey. In contrast, 60% of Americans continue to back the war.

Among the coalition of the unwilling, very large majorities in Germany, France and Russia still believe their countries made the right decision in not taking part in the war.

Moreover, there is broad agreement in nearly all of the countries surveyed -- the US being a notable exception -- that the war in Iraq hurt, rather than helped, the war on terror.

In the four predominantly Muslim countries surveyed, opposition to the war remains nearly universal. Moreover, while large majorities in Western Europe opposed to the war say Saddam Hussein's ouster will improve the lot of the Iraqi people, those in Muslim countries are less confident.

In Jordan, no less than 70 per cent of the respondents think the Iraqis will be worse off with Hussein gone.

There is significant agreement on Iraq's future. Overwhelming majorities in all countries surveyed say it will take longer than a year to establish a stable government in Iraq. But there are deep differences about whether the US or the United Nations would do the best job of helping Iraqis to form such a government.

The UN is the clear choice of people in Western Europe and Turkey; Americans are divided over this issue. Roughly half of Jordanians and a third of Moroccans volunteered that neither the US nor the UN could do best in this regard.

Generally, Americans think the Iraq war helped in the fight against terrorism, illustrated the power of the US military, and revealed America to be trustworthy and supportive of democracy around the world.

Many people in France (57%) and Germany (49%) agree with the widespread view in the Muslim countries surveyed that America is exaggerating the terrorist threat.

Only in Britain and Russia do large majorities believe that the US is right to be so concerned about terrorism.

Nevertheless, support for the US-led war on terrorism has increased dramatically among Russians, despite their generally critical opinion of US policies. More than 73% currently back the war on terrorism, up from 51% last May.

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