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Poll: Most Iraqis distrustful of US-led coalition
( 2003-12-02 10:10) (Agencies)

The vast majority of Iraqis are deeply mistrustful of the US-led coalition that is occupying their country, even if they're happy Saddam Hussein is history, suggests the preliminary results of a major public opinion poll.

Fewer than one per cent of the 3,244 Iraqis interviewed by Oxford Research International, in conjunction with Oxford University's sociology department, bemoaned the fall of Saddam's regime after the March invasion.

But 79 per cent said they have no confidence in the US-led forces now occupying Iraq, according to a summary of the poll's findings released Monday by Oxford Research International, a private research organization.

Seventy-three per cent had a similar lack of trust in the Coalition Provisional Authority, led by Paul Bremer.

On the other hand, 70 per cent had confidence in Iraq's religious leaders, and 54 per cent in their "mukhtars" or local leaders.

Oxford Research International said its survey was "the first truly representative national study in the recent history of the country," with a total of 46 fieldworkers fanning out across Iraq for a month from mid-October.

Christopher Sahm, an Oxford University sociologist who co-ordinated the project, which used Oxford-trained Iraqi interviewers, said he was struck by the mixed feelings among Iraqis.

Whereas 42 per cent said the best thing of the past 12 months was the fall of Saddam's regime soon after the US and British invasion in March, 35 per cent said the worst thing was the war, bombings and defeat.

"There appears no obvious link between best and worst thing," Sahm said. "The very troops which liberated Iraqis from Saddam are the most mistrusted institution in Iraq today."

Other findings from the survey:

-- For the next 12 months, 36 per cent of Iraqis said they worry most about their security and the spectre of Iraq drifting into chaos or civil war. Only one per cent fret over a withdrawal of US-led forces.

-- The number-one priority for 67 per cent is restoring public security. Dealing with members of Saddam's regime was "no priority at all" for 91 per cent.

-- Ninety per cent said Iraq now needs democracy. Sixty-four per cent said a future administration cannot include a role for the Coalition Provisional Authority.

-- Fifty-four per cent disagreed with the idea of a UN transition government, although the United Nations enjoys the best confidence rating (35 per cent) of any non-Iraqi institution.

-- For all they've gone through, "people in Iraq are not particularly unhappy with their lives," the poll found, with Iraqis having a life satisfaction rating of 5.7 on a scale of one to 10. That's roughly comparable with South Africa and South Korea (6.0 each).

-- Monthly net household incomes in Iraq average 124 dollars (103.50 euros), though 22 per cent make do with 50 dollars or less.

-- Just one respondent said "dying for Islam" would be the best thing in 2004.

Oxford Research International said its results were "mainly based on simple statistics such as per centages," and that some of the findings might not stand the test of secondary analysis to be carried out in the coming weeks.

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