Thu, Aug 02, 2007 - Page 6 News List

Most Syrians favor working with US to end Iraq war: poll


Most Syrians favor working with the US to seek an end to the Iraq war, yet also support financing Iraqi insurgents and other Middle East groups the US considers terrorists, according to a rare poll of Syrians released yesterday.

The survey also found that an overwhelming number of Syrians consider trade and political relations with Western countries important, but they narrowly oppose closer ties to the US.

The poll was sponsored by Terror Free Tomorrow, a bipartisan organization that seeks to erode support for international terrorism. Its advisory board includes Senator John McCain of Arizona, a Republican presidential candidate, and former House Speaker Thomas Foley, a Democrat from Washington state.

Earlier this month, the group released a survey of Iranians that found most favored their country developing nuclear weapons.

Objective public opinion surveys are unusual in Syria, whose regime -- led by President Bashar Assad -- has imprisoned pro-democracy supporters.

The US has largely sought to isolate Syria, which it considers a major destabilizing influence in the Middle East.

The US has repeatedly accused Syria of allowing foreign fighters to cross its border into Iraq to join forces with al-Qaeda and anti-US insurgent groups, which Syria denies. Syria has also been accused of helping the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon, Palestinian radicals and other militant groups.

In the poll, 63 percent of Syrians said they favor their country working with the US to resolve the war in Iraq. By a slight 44 percent to 39 percent margin, most said they oppose fighters crossing from Syria into Iraq.

Yet three-fourths said they support financial assistance for Iraqi fighters, the Palestinian groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah. The US considers Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah terrorist organizations.

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