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Last Updated: Monday, 3 November, 2003, 22:16 GMT
Israeli anger over EU 'threat' poll
Silvan Shalom, left, is watched by his German counterpart Joschka Fischer, right, as he places a stone at a gravestone in the Jewish quarter in downtown Berlin
Silvan Shalom played down the survey results
Senior Israeli figures have voiced anger at a European survey labelling their country the greatest threat to world peace.

Nearly 60% of Europeans said yes when asked in the Eurobarometer survey if Israel presents a threat to peace, putting it ahead of Iran, North Korea and the US, each of which polled 53%.

"We are not only said but outraged. Not at European citizens but at those who are responsible for forming public opinion," Israel's mission to the EU said in a statement.

Israel 59%
Iran, North Korea, US 53%
Iraq 52%
Afghanistan 50%
Pakistan 48%
Percentage who replied "Yes" to each country
The Israeli Minister for the Diaspora affairs, Natan Sharansky, said the results showed the EU engaged in "rampant brainwashing".

European Commission President Romano Prodi expressed his concern about the findings, saying that they "point to the continued existence of a bias that must be condemned out of hand".

"To the extent that this may indicate a deeper, more general prejudice against the Jewish world, our repugnance is even more radical," Mr Prodi said in a statement.

"The European Union, which shows sensitivity on human rights issues, would do well to stop the... demonising of Israel before Europe deteriorates once again to dark sections of its past," Mr Sharansky said.

Who cares about such polls?
Silvan Shalom

But Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom appeared less disturbed by the findings.

He said the poll findings reflect the greater press coverage of Israel than of states such as Iran and North Korea.

"There's no comparing the amount of media exposure Israel gets in Europe compared to Iran or North Korea. The images broadcast from here have an impact, but we should not get exerted by it," he told the Israeli daily Haaretz.

He said a poll published a month ago suggested Israel's image was improving in Europe.

"But who cares about such polls?" he asked, saying that negative findings tended to get greater prominence than positive ones.

"One need not dramatise every poll and there's no need for bile," he said.

No policy change

Earlier, an EU spokesman played down the importance of the survey.

The spokesman, Gerassimos Thomas, said the poll results would not affect European policy-making in the short term.

"We don't put excessive emphasis on one poll result," Mr Thomas told the Associated Press, adding that it would not affect EU decision-making.

"Policy is defined on the basis of a number of factors and a number of inputs," he said.

But the BBC's Tim Franks in Brussels says the findings may reduce European diplomats' effectiveness in dealing with the Israel-Palestinian conflict by heightening Israeli distrust of the EU.

The Palestinian Authority was not included in the poll because the EU does not consider it a country.

The survey of 7,515 people in the 15 EU countries was carried out between 8 and 16 October.

Respondents were asked to say whether or not each country on a list represented a threat to world peace.

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