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War Allies Face Opposition At Home
Associated Press
August 7, 2004

VIENNA, Austria - Some of America's staunchest allies in Iraq are vowing to stay the course in the face of persistent bloodshed, but at home their citizens increasingly want out.

All 31 countries remaining in the U.S.-led coalition signed a declaration this week condemning the recent abductions and beheadings of foreign workers by Iraqi insurgents and promising not to make any concessions to the kidnappers.

But the tough talk by militaries and governments hasn't eased the fears of their people.

Nearly three in four Poles say they oppose keeping soldiers in Iraq, a poll released Thursday found. The eroding support in Poland - a key coalition member with 2,400 troops in Iraq - points up how anti-war sentiment is rising in nations the United States counts among its most resolute partners.

"I don't agree with the troops being there. They are in danger every day, and for what?" asked Marian Ciobanu, 28, a security guard in Romania, which has a 700-member contingent serving with the coalition.

Underscoring that danger, about 60 Romanian troops came under fire early Friday from insurgents armed with rifles and rocket-propelled grenades as they patrolled a road in southern Iraq, Romania's Defense Ministry said. No injuries were reported.

Seventy-three percent of Poles oppose the presence of their troops - 7 percentage points more than in June - according to the survey by the CBOS state polling agency. Another 83 percent said they fear Poland, which also commands 3,800 troops from 16 nations in Iraq, could face reprisal terrorist attacks.

Sixty-seven percent of respondents said they want a troop pullout as soon as possible, compared to 60 percent in June, while 29 percent want to see Poland carry through with the mission - 5 percent less than in June. The survey of 920 adults had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Poland's leaders plan to keep troops in Iraq until the situation there has stabilized, but have said they intend to pare down the number of soldiers to between 1,000 and 1,500 in January.

The Poles aren't the only squeamish ones.

The Czech Republic, which has about 90 troops in Iraq, this week signed the coalition declaration condemning the attacks on foreign civilians. The declaration "demonstrates the solidarity of all countries which contribute to the multinational force," the Foreign Ministry said.

The declaration, which was initiated by Bulgaria, has been promoted by the United States, which is trying to keep the coalition together in the wake of troop withdrawals by Spain and the Philippines. Albania, Australia, Britain, Denmark, Estonia, Kazakhstan, Latvia, New Zealand, Singapore and Slovakia were among other coalition nations to sign it this week.

But many ordinary Czechs have grave misgivings about their country's involvement.

"There's no place for Czech soldiers in Iraq. They should leave the country," said Katerina Hejdukova, 34, an unemployed young mother in Prague.

Bulgaria intends to keep its 480 troops in Iraq despite the kidnappings and beheadings of two civilian Bulgarian truck drivers there in July. Its insistence on sticking with the coalition has prompted rising public unease.

Four in five Bulgarians think their country's involvement could provoke a retaliatory terrorist strike on Bulgaria, a recent survey suggested.

"The dramatic events in July did not cause mass hysteria or panic, but convinced the people that the terror threat is real," the National Institute for Public Opinion said this week.

Romania, too, has pledged to keep its contingent in Iraq at least through the end of the year. But not everyone is comfortable with the government's commitment to stay engaged.

"I feel pity for the ones that left for Iraq, because you never know if they'll return," a 70-year-old Romanian retiree who gave her name only as Victoria said Friday.

"If I had a son, I would have fought for him not to go there," she said, weeping. "I've been through a war before."

As the United States works to keep the coalition together, efforts to persuade Muslim nations to contribute forces are getting a lukewarm response.

Saudi Arabia has proposed that Muslim countries such as Algeria, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan, Malaysia, Morocco and Yemen send a force that would replace U.S.-led coalition troops and operate under the umbrella of the United Nations.

So far, though, there have been no takers, and Algeria has ruled out sending any troops.

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Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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Copyright 2015 . All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


 


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