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Plunging Support for US Pegged to Iraq War, indicates Survey - 2003-06-04

A new survey released this week says the war in Iraq has sent support for the United States to new lows in predominantly Muslim countries and damaged the standing of the United Nations. The opinion poll also indicates the conflict has widened the rift between Americans and Europeans, softened support for the war on international terrorism and weakened the Atlantic Alliance.

In a poll taken after the war in Iraq, the Pew Research Center has found that the war has deepened international concerns about the United States and the policies of the Bush administration.

The director of the center, Andrew Kohut, says one of the most dramatic findings in the survey is the negative view of the United States among Muslims that has spread from countries in the Middle East to Muslim populations in Indonesia and Africa.

In seven of the eight predominantly Muslim countries surveyed, Mr. Kohut said, a majority of the people are concerned their nation will be attacked by the U.S. military. "The bottom has fallen out in support for America in the Muslim world," he said. "Antagonism towards the United States has both deepened and widened."

According to the survey, the drop in support for the United States has also swept through Europe.

A year ago, for example, more than 60 percent of French and Germans held a positive view of the United States.

After the war and sharp disputes in the United Nations, positive views of the United States have fallen to 45 percent in Germany and 43 percent in France.

In Spain, where the government supported the war, just 38 percent have favorable views of America.

Pew research director Andrew Kohut says disagreements over the war caused negative feelings on both sides of the Atlantic. "The rift between Americans and Western Europeans has clearly widened," he said.

"Large majorities of Europeans say they want a less close diplomatic and security relationship with the United States. Opinions are strained on both sides of the Atlantic while half, or 52 percent of the Americans we interviewed said that they want to continue to have a close relationship with Western Europe. That is down from 62 percent a year ago."

People in most countries surveyed say they have little confidence in President Bush. Even in the United States, British Prime Minister Tony Blair ranked ahead of Mr. Bush, because Mr. Blair wins strong support among opposition Democrats, while Mr. Bush does not.

Despite the concerns about President Bush, people in most nations support the democratic, free-market model that America symbolizes.

Even mostly Muslim populations say that Western-style democracy could work in their countries.

The Pew survey is chaired by former American Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who said she is worried about the survey results that show while people like certain aspects of life in the United States, they now fear U.S. military power.

"While it is very important to keep in mind the underlying theme that most people in the world continue to like our music, and our culture, and our technology and they like democracy, they are concerned about our policies," she said. "Now something that I never thought I would see, and I must say is of great concern to me, is that people now fear American power. And I know that there are those who want to be feared.

"But I think that if you look at the common problems that have to be dealt with that are good for American national interests then I think it is actually necessary for us all to work together and that we have to ask ourselves where the greater security is. So I think this question about fear of American power that comes out of this survey is something that has to be noted," said the former secretary of state.

The poll results show that support for the American-led war on terrorism is slipping.

Majorities in Western Europe and Australia still back the battle, but in Muslim nations fewer than 25 percent support the effort.

Majorities of Muslims in the Palestinian territories, Jordan and Indonesia, and nearly half of those polled in Pakistan and Morocco, say they have at least some confidence in Osama bin Laden, the suspected mastermind of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the United States.

The survey found that public confidence in the United Nations is a major casualty of the war in Iraq.

Positive ratings for the world body tumbled in nearly every country surveyed.

The survey, called Views of a Changing World, polled 16,000 people in 20 nations and in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.