Former President Jimmy Carter says Americans should support troops fighting the war in Iraq and he hopes they return quickly with a minimal loss of life to both the coalition forces and Iraqis.

A Nobel Peace Prize winner, Carter opposed a unilateral attack on Iraq before the outbreak of fighting, saying it would not meet his standards for a "just war" and would violate basic religious principles and respect for international law.

He said at the time that the Bush administration had presented an unconvincing case linking the al-Qaida terror network to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

But Tuesday, Carter said that, since the war has begun, he would remain quiet and express support for the troops.

"I hope that the plans will be carried out expeditiously," he said.

He added, though, that it was appropriate for Americans to express their opinions about the war.

"I think it's perfectly legitimate for people to express their own assessment of a very complex situation, even though those assessments might be contrary to one another," he said. "Such dissent in a democracy is appropriate, just as long as we don't do anything or say anything that might detract from the ability of our troops overseas to return home successfully."

In watching news reports from the region, Carter said, "I notice that there's strong elements of dispute between military commanders and some of the officials in Washington. I think that's not unhealthy."

Carter says his nonprofit organization, the Atlanta-based Carter Center, has had to alter travel plans because of the war in Iraq.

"For the first time in 20 years, we have had to restrict the travel of our people, since the war began, because of such an uproar of anti-American sentiment even among countries that have been our close friends in the past," Carter said on Tuesday.

"The officials in Washington advised us to select our work to be done by natives in the country rather than sending Americans overseas until the situation stabilizes."

Carter said the precaution hasn't interfered with the organization's work. He said he doubts the Carter Center would be asked to help in post-war Iraq or Afghanistan.

Carter was in Little Rock to dedicate a new neurosciences center at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.