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Tuesday, March 18

Analysis - Allies have growing dislike of U.S., but won’t mind if Americans remove Saddam

By Chuck Raasch

WASHINGTON - As war with Iraq looms, relations with the post-World War II allies may never have been worse.

A new poll shows plummeting favorable ratings of the United States - and especially President Bush - in Britain, France, Germany and among other long-time partners. Public support among allies for a war in Iraq is even less.

But does it matter to the United States? In another finding, majorities or significant pluralities also believe that Iraq and the Middle East will be better off without Saddam Hussein. How this fluid situation solidifies could depend heavily on the success of a U.S.-led war and the reception given by the Iraqi people.

This dichotomy was the top finding of polls taken in eight European and Asian countries by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. The surveys began March 10 and ended Monday. They had a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points in Britain and 5 percentage points in the other seven nations: France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Poland, Russia and Turkey.

"Anti-war sentiment and disapproval of President Bush’s international policies continue to erode America’s image among the publics of its allies," said Andrew Kohut, Pew’s director.

But, he said, "Most publics surveyed think that in the long run, the Iraqi people will be better off and the Middle East will be more stable if Iraq is disarmed and Hussein is removed from power."

In a speech to the nation Monday night, President George W. Bush alluded to the split in diplomatic terms.

In veiled references to France, Germany and Russia, he said that some governments "share our assessments of the danger (posed by Saddam) but not our resolve to meet it." France had said it would veto any resolution before the U.N. Security Council authorizing war with Iraq.

Bush devoted about half of his 13-minute speech to the kind of Iraq he envisioned after U.S. forces liberated the country.

"We will tear down the apparatus of terror and we will help you to build a new Iraq that is prosperous and free," Bush told the Iraqi people.

While souring on the United States, many respondents in the new survey by Pew embrace that vision of a post-war Iraq.

Here is a snapshot of Pew’s survey of the eight countries:

^Britain:@ Favorable views of the United States fell from 75 percent last year to just 48 percent; only 39 percent want Britain to join the war against Iraq. But 76 percent also said Iraq will be better off after the war and 59 percent said the Middle East would be more stable.

^France:@ Favorable views of the United States have dropped by half in a year, from 63 percent to 31 percent. Yet, 73 percent of French citizens surveyed said they thought the Iraqi people would be better off if war removed Saddam from power and 46 percent said the Middle East would be more stable. Thirty-seven percent said it would be less stable.

^Germany:@ Favorable views of the United States fell from 61 percent to 25 percent in a year. But 71 percent of Germans believe the Iraqis will be better off if the U.S.-led coalition drives Saddam from power.

^Italy:@ While 61 percent of Italians are positive about Iraq after the war and 46 percent said they believe Saddam’s removal would make the Middle East more stable, positive images of Americans fell from 70 percent last year to 34 percent.

^Spain:@ People in Spain, an ally in the impending war with Iraq, were less optimistic about the aftermath of war - 46 percent said the Iraqis would be better off and 21 percent said worse off. Positive views of Americans fell from 50 percent to just 14 percent.

^Poland:@ The Poles - relatively new allies - also have had a falloff in positive views of the United States. Last year, 79 percent gave favorable ratings; currently only 50 percent do. But more than half of respondents - 52 percent - said the Iraqis will be better off without Saddam.

^Russia:@ Positive views of the United States fell from 61 percent to 28 percent in a year. And the Russians believe Iraq will be worse off after a war. Forty percent said that, while only 20 percent said the Iraqi people would have it better without Saddam.

^Turkey:@ The Turks’ view of the United States was not good to begin with. Only 30 percent gave positive ratings a year ago. That’s down to 12 percent in the latest Pew poll. And 52 percent of Turks said they believe Iraq will be worse off after a war; 56 percent fear more Middle Eastern instability in a post-Saddam world.