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Tuesday, 30 July, 2002, 17:00 GMT 18:00 UK
US confronts 'image problem'
US athlete Inger Miller
Athletes promote the US, but can the politicians do it?
The United States is to set up an office to improve its image abroad amid mounting fears that foreigners view America as arrogant and unilateral, the Washington Post reports.


We need a strategy of engagement - we need to listen to people

Kathy Bloomgarden
Diplomacy task force
The Office of Global Communications will reportedly supplant a smaller unit set up during the campaign against Afghanistan, when it was feared that the US was losing the public relations battle while winning the war.

A spokeswoman from the State Department would not confirm the report, but did say the topic was likely to feature in a news briefing later on Tuesday.

The report follows a warning from the influential Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), which said the US Government has failed to capture the hearts and minds of non-Americans.

It advised an urgent public relations overhaul.

'Unpopular'

The CFR report says that although negative attitudes about US policy are particularly pervasive in the Muslim world, America's image problem is truly global.

Chimneys
The US stand on global warming leaves it out of step with much of the world

America's unwavering support for Israel and its refusal to admonish the country for its offensive in the Palestinian territories is believed to play the most significant role in hostility towards the US among Arabs.

There was also general opposition to the war in Afghanistan.

"Some 60% of the people - even among our allies in the Middle East like Jordan, South Africa and Pakistan - had an unfavourable opinion of the US," said Kathy Bloomgarden, who helped compile the report.

Defending American interests above all else has also drawn criticism.

Decisions to withdraw from international treaties like that on global warming and the country's attack on the newly-established International Criminal Court have all sparked anger, particularly in Europe.

Europeans also feel that the US, having made much of the need to create an international coalition against terrorism, lost interest in European opinion after the successful campaign against Aghanistan.

Radio reach

The CFR report however notes that basic American values such as a belief in the democratic tradition, freedom of expression, women's rights, and education, are still admired around the world.

Much could be gained, it says, from selling American ideas and policies alongside these popular values.

According to the Washington Post, the new communications office will take over from The Coalition Information Center, set up during the war last year, in the autumn.

A senior official quoted by the paper insisted it would not supplant the State Department - responsible for foreign affairs - but complement its activities.

The Washington Post says among the first ventures is Radio Sawa, a 24 hour US Government station which will broadcast to the Arab world.

It will combine American and Arab pop music with news bulletins twice an hour.


Talking PointTALKING POINT
PR crisis?
Does the US have an image problem?
See also:

08 Jul 02 | Hardtalk
13 Jul 02 | From Our Own Correspondent
22 Jun 02 | Media reports
06 May 02 | Americas
06 May 02 | Americas
02 Apr 01 | Americas
15 Feb 02 | Americas
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