03/19/2007, 00.00
IRAQ
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Pessimism but also a strong desire for national unity prevails among Iraqis

Four years into the war survey indicates that only 18 per cent of Iraqis have confidence in foreign troops. Pessimism about the future is up, but the desire for a united country remains strong. Only 26 per cent miss Saddam’s regime.

London (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Four years after the start of the US-led invasion of Iraq on March 20, 2003, that overthrew Saddam Hussein’s regime, only 18 per cent of Iraqis still had confidence in US troops and almost 86 per cent feared they would become victims of violence, this according to a survey whose highlights were published today by the BBC. Overall, the poll suggests, Iraqis are more pessimistic this year than last year about the future.

The survey, which entailed questioning more than 2,000 people across all 18 Iraqi provinces between February 25 and March 5, indicates that just 39 per cent of respondents think things are going well in their lives, while only 35 per cent think their lives will improve over the next year. Only 40 per cent believe the general situation will improve.

A similar survey commissioned by the BBC in November 2005 painted a much brighter picture, with 71 per cent saying things were good in the lives and 64 per cent saying their lives would be better in 12 months.

Still, 56 per cent did not believe that Iraq was in a civil war, while 58 per cent were in favour of maintaining a unified Iraq.

Both local authorities and US forces were blamed—53 per cent were dissatisfied with the performance of the Iraqi government, whilst 78 per cent opposed the presence of coalition forces.

Reconstruction has also come in for criticism with 67 per cent of respondents thinking that rebuilding efforts have not been effective.

Economically, GPD has grown by 3 per cent but almost all due to oil exports. And foreign companies want more security to invest in the country.

Another survey by the Opinion Research Business (ORB), based on interviews with 5,019 Iraqis over the age of 18, shows that some 26 per cent of Iraqis—15 percent of Sunnis and 34 percent of Shiites—have had a family member murdered, whilst 14 per cent have had a relative, friend or colleague abducted (33 per cent in Baghdad). Still only 26 per cent said things were better under Saddam's rule.

Surprisingly, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shia, has gained support. Almost half, 49 percent, of those questioned preferred life under his rule than Saddam’s. An ORB survey in September last year found that only 29 percent of Iraqis had a favourable opinion of the prime minister.

Another surprise was that only 27 percent believed the country was caught up in a civil war.

US forces are also taking stock of the situation. Newly-appointed US commander, General David Petraeus, recently said that there have been some encouraging signs of progress. Thanks to the recent troop build-up, terrorist attacks in Baghdad have dropped by 50 per cent.

In the last four years though, tens of thousands of Iraqis and 3,200 US troops were killed in the conflict.

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