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Last Updated: Sunday, 23 October 2005, 13:29 GMT 14:29 UK
Iraqis 'back attacks on troops'
British soldier in Basra
Almost 100 UK soldiers have died since military action began
Millions of Iraqis believe attacks against US and UK troops are justified, the leaked results of a poll conducted for the coalition suggest.

The poll shows 45% of Iraqis believe the attacks are justified. And the figure rises to 65% in Maysan, one of the areas where UK forces operate.

The Ministry of Defence says the poll was conducted in August, which was a "particularly bad month".

But the Lib Dems say the results show the need for an Iraq exit strategy.

The poll, conducted by an Iraqi research team, was leaked to the Sunday Telegraph newspaper.

The survey suggests:

  • 82% of Iraqis are "strongly opposed" to the presence of coalition troops

  • Less than 1% of the Iraqi population believes coalition troops are responsible for any improvement in the country

  • 67% of Iraqis feel less secure because of the occupation

  • 43% of Iraqis believe conditions for peace and stability have worsened

  • 72% do not have confidence in the multi-national forces.

Fluctuations

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said polling was conducted continuously in Iraq for the coalition by a number of organisations.

"Results will fluctuate over time and geographical location," said the spokesman.

"This set of figures are from August, which was a particularly bad month, and we are hopeful that on the back of the referendum on the constitution that took place recently that figures will improve.

"But despite all this, it is the firm and resolute will of the democratically elected government in Iraq that coalition troops remain in Iraq."

Conservative defence spokesman Andrew Robathan, a former SAS soldier, said the poll showed the government's "hearts and minds" policy had been "disastrous".

"The coalition is now part of the problem and not the solution," he said.

"I am not advocating a pull-out but if British soldiers are putting their lives on the line for a cause which is not supported by the Iraqi people then we have to ask the question what are we doing there?"

Exit strategy?

Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Sir Menzies Campbell said: "If these results truly represent public opinion in Iraq then they are profoundly disturbing.

"They underline the magnitude of the task being faced by British forces, and the extent of the risks which they undergo daily.

"Such findings are yet another argument in favour of a comprehensive exit strategy."

The UK Government says clear criteria have been drawn up for deciding when Iraqi security forces can take control of their regions.

But both Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said it would not be right to set a timetable for withdrawing troops.

'Defeat for terrorists'

In an interview for BBC One's Politics Show, Ms Rice said the Iraqis were making "very steady and quite remarkable progress on the political front".

The numbers of voters who turned out for the poll on the referendum this month was a "real defeat" for terrorists in Iraq, she argued.

But she refused to say how long it would take for Iraq to be a stable democracy - something Mr Straw has said is possible within five to 10 years.

Ms Rice said there were 91 Iraqi battalions now operational, although very few of them were completely independent of US logistical help.





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