WASHINGTON – Although a majority of Britons may want the Blair government to follow Spain in withdrawing from Iraq, prominent British politicians insist that Britain will stay the course.
A new poll published Monday finds that 55 percent of those surveyed want British troops pulled out of Iraq when power is given to an interim Iraqi government.
However, British politicians have discussed deploying more troops to fill the hole created by the Spanish withdrawal. The new Spanish government, led by Socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero (search), has promised to withdraw Spain's 1,300 Spanish troops from Iraq as soon as possible. The pullout should be completed this month.
On Monday, reporters asked whether allegations of British soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners, as well as the graphic photos of prisoner abuse at the hands of some U.S. soldiers, would impact the possible deployment of further troops.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair's (search) spokesman responded that despite the damage caused by the allegations, the coalition's mission had not changed.
Speaking in Washington on Monday, former British Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith (search) echoed these sentiments.
"These pictures have had a dramatic effect on both sides of the Atlantic," but will not turn people against the war, Smith said at a meeting held by the American Enterprise Institute's New Atlantic Initiative (search). "People want to see it through."
The poll was conducted after the first abuse photos surfaced.
NOP, a polling company, conducted the survey for The Independent newspaper, questioning 1,001 adults over the phone between April 30 and May 2. The poll showed 28 percent opposed withdrawing troops, while 17 percent had no opinion.
Smith said the debate is not over whether to pull out, but whether to send more troops. "I think we have to," Smith said, to "maintain our influence" and make up for the Spanish withdrawal.
However, Smith warned that rising anti-Americanism in Britain means that the State Department should be more proactive to make sure that Britain remains a steadfast ally.
The United Kingdom has about 7,500 solders in southern Iraq. A multinational force that includes 135,000 American troops will remain in Iraq once an interim government is in place.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.