Most Iraqis support attacks on British

By Damien McElroy, Foreign Affairs Correspondent
Last Updated: 2:36am GMT 20/03/2007

A majority of Iraqis support insurgent attacks on American and British troops, but almost two-thirds simultaneously believe the US-led coalition shouldn’t pull out in the near future, a BBC poll has found.

The nationwide survey of Iraqi public opinion was carried out to mark the fourth anniversary tomorrow of the invasion to overthrow Saddam Hussein.

Although most results indicated increased pessimism in the war-torn country, many people also expressed determination to stay in Iraq until its problems are resolved.

Out of 2,000 people questioned across all 18 provinces more than half, 51 per cent, said they supported "politically motivated" attacks on coalition forces.

However when asked if foreign forces should withdraw from Iraq only 35 per cent agreed. Almost double that number, 63 percent, wanted the coalition to stay until security was restored.

There is little evidence that this figure can be taken as a mark of confidence.

A very large number of respondents, 82 percent, said they lacked faith in American and other troops, while 69 percent said the US presence made violence worse.

Overall, a similar pattern of contradictory responses was evident when Iraqis were questioned about the state of the nation.

Although a majority, 56 percent said the country was not in civil war, only 23 per cent said they felt safe in their home neighbourhoods.

Asked who controlled the country, just one third said the Iraqi government while 59 percent said the United States.

Dissatisfaction with Iraqi politicians had rocketed since the last survey in 2005, to 53 percent from 34 per cent.

Looking to the future, 43 percent said democracy provided the best hope of good government but there was a sharp rise to 34 percent in those favouring the return of a strongman to wield power.

Support for an Islamic state had also risen to 22 per cent.

The violence continued today when an explosion ripped through a Shia mosque in Baghdad during prayers, killing at least eight worshippers.

A series of car bombs then struck the oil-rich city of Kirkuk in northern Iraq, killing 12 people.