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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 March 2008, 00:03 GMT
Support drops for action on Iran
Bushehr nuclear reactor - file photo
Iran says its nuclear programme is for solely civilian purposes
Support for tough international action against Iran over its nuclear programme has fallen in the past 18 months, a poll carried out for the BBC suggests.

Fewer people now say Iran should face sanctions or military strikes over its refusal to abide by UN resolutions.

The United States and Western allies believe Iran may be developing nuclear weapons. Iran vehemently denies this.

Of more than 30,000 people asked, most said Iran should be allowed to produce nuclear fuel if subject to UN checks.

"It appears that people in many countries are interested in ramping down the confrontation with Iran, while still using UN inspectors to ensure that Iran is not developing nuclear weapons," said Steven Kull, director of Pipa, which carried out the poll in partnership with Globescan, on behalf of the BBC World Service.

The latest survey was carried out in 31 countries and draws on a similar poll conducted in June 2006.

Public support for sanctions or military strikes has fallen in more than half of the countries surveyed, including in those where support for tough action was highest.

Graph, nuclear fuel
Support has dropped 10 points in Australia (from 52% to 42%), nine points in Britain (43% to 34%), and nine points in Germany (46% to 37%).

Overall, only 7% of those questioned in the Pipa/Globescan poll backed the idea of military strikes.

Most of the recent interviews were conducted after the release of the US National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) last December, which surprised many by saying Iran had halted its nuclear weapons programme in 2003, says the BBC's world affairs correspondent Frances Harrison.

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Analysts said that assessment took some of the wind out of the sails of US and European-led efforts to increase pressure on Iran through UN sanctions.

However, the US government says it still sees Iran as a significant danger, and Israel says it believes it is aiming to build nuclear weapons.

They were two of only three countries surveyed in the poll where a marked majority backed sanctions or military action against Iran. The other was South Korea.

China support

The NIE has contributed to a lessening of tension since 2006, when the first BBC survey was conducted and international concern about Iran's nuclear activities was at its height.

Map of Iran nuclear sites

That was the year Iran broke the UN nuclear agency seals on its enrichment site at Natanz and announced it had successfully enriched uranium for the first time.

In 14 out of 21 countries surveyed in 2006, at least 35% of people supported tough action against Iran. In 2008, support reached 35% in only 9 of those 21 countries.

On average, more than 40% of people questioned in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and the Americas supported diplomacy as the route forward.

But, our correspondent Frances Harrison says, Iran may find it worrying that China - one of its most important trading partners and a permanent UN Security Council member with a veto vote - was not far behind, with 40% of people backing punitive measures.

Graph, Iran action
Figures do not sum to 100%, as 'don't knows' have not been included

Methodology: In total 32,039 citizens in Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Egypt, El Salvador, France, Ghana, Germany, Great Britain, Guatemala, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Panama, the Philippines, Portugal, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Turkey, and the United States were interviewed face-to-face or by telephone between October 31, 2007 and January 25, 2008. Polling was conducted for the BBC World Service by the international polling firm GlobeScan and its research partners in each country. In 13 of the 31 countries, the sample was limited to major urban areas. The margin of error per country ranges from +/-2.4 to 4.4 per cent.


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