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Gary Younge
Europe poll sees US falling from favour

Anti-war sentiment and disapproval of President Bush's foreign policy has prompted citizens in eight out of nine European countries to support weaker diplomatic and security ties with the US, in the belief that its foreign policy is having a negative effect on their country. Britain is the only exception.

The US's favourability ratings in Britain, Spain, Italy and Poland have plummeted dramatically, according to the survey by the Pew Research centre.

Since last year the proportion with a favourable view of the US has dropped from 75% to 48% in Britain, 76% to 34% in Italy, 50% to 14% in Spain, and 86% to 50% in Poland. In countries with governments opposed to the war the drop is steeper - from 63% to 31% in France, 61% to 25% in Germany, 61% to 28% in Russia and 30% to 12% in Turkey.

All nine countries show a majority against the war. With the exception of Turkey and Russia, all surveyed blamed Mr Bush rather than the American people for the problems caused by the foreign policy of the US.

The poll makes for sober reading for the Bush administration just a day after the president put the world on a war footing.

Abroad it suggests that global goodwill demonstrated towards the US after the 2001 terrorist attacks, has not only dissipated but suffered a full-scale reversal. In the US, public support for war has fallen from 68% to 59%, with only a minority in favour of "going it alone".

Even those here who support the war believe the White House's belligerent diplomatic tone and impatience have been detrimental to American interests.

"The war will be conducted with less support than the cause should have commanded," said the Washington Post editorial yesterday. "The Bush administration has raised the risks through its insistence on an accelerated timetable, its exaggerated rhetoric and its insensitive diplomacy."

Most worrying for the US is Turkey, where 60% of the public believes America is about to embark on a war against Muslim nations. The Turkish parliament, which rejected US offers of aid for use of Turkish bases in the war, could put the question to the vote again; yet 52% of Turks believe the parliament's decision was right, against 37% who think it wrong.

In the long-term the polls suggest tough times ahead for US diplomacy. For while Americans overwhelmingly believe the US should keep close ties with western Europe, a huge majority of people in Spain, France and Italy believe the opposite.

But there remains the possibility that the president may still emerge more popular at home and abroad if the war is quick, effective and there are few casualties among his forces.

Bar Turkey and Russia, all the countries polled believed the Iraqi people and the Middle East would be better off if Saddam Hussein were opposed and Iraq were disarmed.

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