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Poll: Support for Iraq War Still Strong

Public support for eventual military action against Iraq remains strong, but the number of people who think the United States doesn't have enough international support yet for such military action is growing, says a new poll.

Nearly six in 10 Americans, 57 percent, say the United States should get a second U.N. resolution before attacking Iraq, and about the same number, 58 percent, say this country does not currently have enough international support for such an attack. These are the findings of a poll released Thursday by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

Pew Research Center Director Andrew Kohut said the most important findings of the poll are that the debate with longtime allies in the United Nations, the report by U.N. weapons inspector Hans Blix and overseas peace protests "have affected public opinion."

"The number of people who are basically backing support hasn't changed," Kohut said, "but concerns about the big qualification of international support have."

General support for military action against Iraq was at 66 percent, but that tends to drop in polls when people are asked about attacking without allied backing. Polls show a majority approves of military action as long as this country has the support of major allies.

But recent events are raising public concerns about the need for international backing. The Pew poll found public sentiment shifting significantly between early February and after the United Nations heard from Blix.

The poll found that public opinion shifted away from quick military action on several questions. Those include whether the United States has enough international support, whether Iraq will disarm peacefully and whether U.N. inspectors have found proof that Iraq is hiding weapons of mass destruction.

Kohut said the poll suggests that failing to get backing from the United Nations and a broad alliance before attacking could mean the war effort would not have as much widespread public support in this country in the long run.

Six in 10 said they believe the weapons inspection efforts showed that Iraq will not cooperate and cannot be peacefully disarmed. But the number of people who believe Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had any connection with terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 dropped from 66 percent in October to 57 percent now.

The Pew poll of 1,254 adults was carried out with the Council on Foreign Relations and was conducted in waves Feb. 12-13 and Feb. 14-18. It has an error margin of plus or minus 3 percentage points, slightly larger for subgroups.