20 April 2006 Edition

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International: public unease at US policies

Confidence in Bush at all time Low

Many point out that it was greed for oil that brought the US and the British governments to occupy Afghanistan, that they wished to build an oil pipe line that would open the rich oil wells of the former soviet republics and Iraq. Many now wonder whether this is also dictating White House policy in relation to news that Iran is developing a nuclear capacity.

As the fears over Iran's nuclear standoff -and US responses increase, oil prices continue to hit record highs of over $70 a barrel. Obviously, these increases will have repercussions in the US, where the public is used to cheap "gas" to fuel their cars. Soon enough, the US public may be joining those in the diplomatic corps and in the military who have started denouncing some of the policies of the Bush administration.

The latest Bloomber/ LosAngeles Times poll found that US pessimism about the Iraq war has deepened and it may be feeding doubts about President Bush's efforts to thwart Iran's nuclear ambitions. A majority- 54 % said they "don't trust'' Bush to make the right decision about whether the US should go to war with Iran, compared with 42% who said they do trust him. Forty per cent said the Iraq experience had made them less supportive of military action against Iran, while 38 % said it had no impact.

The poll surveyed 1,357 American adults by telephone between 8 and 11 April and had a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.

A majority surveyed- 56 %, said Iraq is now in the midst of a civil war, despite the Bush administration's denials. Only 37 % said they believe a lot of progress is being made there, eight points down from the last poll in January.

Forty-eight percent said they would support military action against Iran if it continues to produce material that can be used to develop a nuclear bomb, down from 57% in January. Forty % oppose military action, up from 33 % in January.

The prospect of a military strike on Iran jumped into the headlines after an article in the New Yorker magazine reported on 8 April that the US is considering air attacks on suspected weapons facilities there. Bush dismissed the story as "wild speculation".

Meanwhile, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has confirmed that Iran was in the "nuclear club" and would accelerate uranium enrichment to reach "industrial scale-production.'' He rejected UN Security Council demands for suspension of the program by the end of the month.

While US policy makers grapple with the Iranian nuclear problem, they also face an intensifying insurgency in Iraq.

Pentagon chief, Donald Rumsfeld is the target of criticism from US military officers. While the offensive seems to be so far limited to generals who have recently retired from service, there are claims of support from active-duty officers.

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