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Last Updated: Monday, 1 December, 2003, 16:52 GMT
Iraqis 'welcome Saddam's fall'
By Barnaby Mason
BBC diplomatic correspondent

According to what is described as the first truly representative survey of Iraqi opinion, people in Iraq believe that the best thing that happened in the past 12 months was the demise of Saddam Hussein's regime.

Iraqis surround toppled statue of Saddam Hussein, 9 April, 2003
Iraqis crave peace and stability after a tumultuous year
The thing they want most over the next year is peace and stability, and the preferred form of government is an Iraqi democracy.

The national survey was carried out by Oxford Research International through more than 3,000 interviews in October and November; it was commissioned by Oxford University and done at the same time as audience research for the BBC World Service.

This scientific survey carried out by Iraqi graduates trained for the job reveals the obvious and the less obvious, the complexities and contradictions of human nature.

Asked to come up with the best and worst things over the past year, Iraqis overwhelmingly said the end of Saddam Hussein's regime on the one hand; and the war, bombings and defeat on the other.

Over the next 12 months, they wanted peace and stability and a better life in material terms; what they feared most was insecurity, chaos and civil war.

Desire for democracy

Asked to choose the form of government Iraq needed now, 90% of those interviewed - in their own homes - said an Iraqi democracy, and overwhelmingly rejected the idea that democracy was only for Westerners and would not work in Iraq.

But more than two-thirds also wanted a strong leader; slightly fewer (61%) agreed that the government should be made up mainly of religious leaders; and there was little support for the American-British occupation authority continuing to play a role.

In contrast with all other Iraqi institutions, religious leaders command the trust of the people - though when asked to suggest the best thing that could happen in the next year, fewer than 1% said an Islamic government.

Continuing mistrust

One of the survey's most striking findings in a country emerging from dictatorship was that only one in 10 Iraqis thought most people could be trusted; nine out of 10 agreed that you had to be very careful in dealing with people, and nearly half said they would never discuss politics with others.

Despite everything, though, most respondents felt they were in control of their lives, and the results indicated that in an international context Iraqis were not particularly dissatisfied.

The organisation responsible for the survey says its fieldworkers faced significant risks.

Two were arrested and others were repeatedly questioned and sometimes attacked by suspicious interviewees, police and security forces.

The interviewees were chosen by a system of random sampling designed to reflect the distribution of population, the balance between men and women, and Iraq's religious and ethnic mix.

The BBC's Peter Greste
"The real number of dead or wounded may never be known"

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