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Poll: European support for US fading
( 2003-09-04 13:19) (Agencies)

After the Iraq war, support for U.S. global leadership has faded badly in European nations, most dramatically in Germany and France which strenuously opposed the war, according to a survey released Thursday.

President Bush's standing has just about evaporated in Germany where his approval rating is 16 per cent ! down from 36 per cent in 2002 ! and where public opinion increasingly questions American leadership, said the Trans-Atlantic Trends 2003 survey.

"The Germany that never sought to choose between Europe and the United States has now expressed an unambiguous preference for Europe," it said.

The war has made the trans-Atlantic disconnect so significant that large chunks of public opinion in France (70 per cent), Germany and Italy (both 50 per cent), Portugal (44 per cent) now see U.S leadership as undesirable, the poll showed.

"The trans-Atlantic split over the war in Iraq has undermined Americans' standing with Europeans," it added.

The survey of the German Marshall Fund of the United States and the Compagnia di Sao Paolo, a Turin foundation devoted to developing interest in international affairs in Italy was held in mid-June, two months after U.S. troops ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Washington went to war bypassing the United Nations, whose support it failed to win due to European opposition.

The Trans-Atlantic Trends 2003 survey found broad support on both sides of the Atlantic to strengthen the United Nations. However, 36 percent of Americans ! and only 16 percent of Europeans ! say it is all right to bypass the organization to defend vital national interests, the survey found.

It said that hard on the heels of the Iraq war, Bush's foreign policies polled only a 30 percent approval rating across Europe, down from 38 percent in 2002.

In Britain and the Netherlands he fares better than in 2002: 35 percent of Britons approve of his foreign policies (up from 30 per cent last year) and 37 percent of the Dutch (up from 28 per cent), the survey found.

However, Bush's dismal 16 percent approval in Germany almost matches the tally in France (15 per cent, against 21 per cent in 2002).

The American president polled a 40-percent support level in Italy (down from 57 per cent), 58 per cent in Poland (down from 62 per cent) and 41 percent in Portugal which was not polled in 2002, according to the survey.

In concert with Bush's fading stature, 81 per cent of Germans ! up from 55 per cent in 2002 ! now say the European Union as more important to their vital interests than America, which kept West Germany safe from the Soviet Union during four Cold War decades. Only 9 per cent see the United States as key to safeguarding their country's vital interests.

"The German result is definitely one of the most interesting," said Abigail Golden-Vazquez, communications director of the German Marshall Fund of the United States in Washington.

The survey consisted of telephone interviews with 1,000 people each in Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Portugal and the United States and face-to-face interviews in Poland. It has a 3-point margin of error.

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