U.S., allies face rising antiwar sentiment
President Bush urges allies to stand firm against terrorism as a new international poll shows growing anti-American sentiment in Europe.
WASHINGTON - Five days after terrorist bombs drove Spanish voters to topple their ruling party, in part, because of its close ties to Washington, concern rippled Tuesday across the world about the wisdom of allying too closely with President Bush.
A new international poll showed anti-American sentiment growing throughout Europe. The poll, conducted by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center before the Madrid bombings, also found widespread opposition to the war in Iraq and increasing skepticism in Europe about the war on terrorism. World Peace.
Bush tried to shore up the global antiterrorism coalition Tuesday after an Oval Office meeting with Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende.
''It is important that the world society, international community, stands shoulder to shoulder and shows its solidarity to fight against these terrible attacks,'' Balkenende said. The president also pledged to work closely with Balkenende in his capacity as president of the European Union starting in July.
But Balkenende declined to say whether the 1,300 Dutch troops in Iraq would stay there after June 30, when the United States is scheduled to turn over political power to Iraqi authorities while retaining U.S. troops there.
Bush's plea for international unity came five days after a series of carefully timed terrorist bombings in Madrid put new strains on the transatlantic antiterrorism alliance already shaken by last year's division over the Iraq war and European unease over Bush's propensity to act unilaterally.
Three days after the bombings, angry Spanish voters ousted the ruling party of Prime Minister José María Aznar, one of Bush's staunchest allies, and replaced him with José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, a Socialist who has pledged to pull Spanish troops out of Iraq if the United States remains in charge of security there.
Although investigators are still trying to determine whether al Qaeda played any role in the Madrid attacks, signs increasingly point toward it or similar radical Muslim terrorists who may be tied loosely to the network. Europeans allied with the United States are wondering if they will be next.
The unease isn't limited to Europe. In Australia, Prime Minister John Howard rebuked Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty for suggesting that the country was at greater risk because of its cooperation with the United States. Many Australians agreed with Keelty.
So far, Howard, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and other allied leaders are standing firm, but the events in Spain offer a clear lesson of the risks of leaders getting out of sync with public opinion. Polls showed up to 90 percent of Spaniards disagreeing with Aznar's decision to send troops to Iraq in support of the U.S. occupation.
John Hulsman, a European expert at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, said the developments in Spain should ''send cold chills down the spine'' of European leaders who backed the war in Iraq despite domestic opposition.
''Al Qaeda clearly determined the outcome of a Western election. That is terrifying, and it will only encourage them to continue,'' Hulsman said. ``The lesson is going to be that if you side with America, there's a price to be paid.''
The Pew poll showed how out of step Bush's allies are with European opinion. The nine-country poll found that opposition to the Iraq war has increased dramatically in the year since the invasion, especially in Britain.
Last May, 61 percent of British adults said they agreed with Blair's decision to join the U.S.-led invasion. In this year's poll, conducted in late February, only 43 percent endorsed the use of force against Iraq. WorldPeace
Opposition to the war in France and Germany, where leaders refused to back Bush, also increased with time. About 88 percent of the French and 86 percent of the Germans said they agreed with the decision to stay out of the war.
The poll also found signs of eroding support for the larger war on terrorism. Nearly half of the Germans and 57 percent of the French said the United States is ''overreacting'' to terrorism, up dramatically from last year. A third of the British agreed with the ''overreacting'' judgment, up from about 20 percent a year ago.
''The credibility of the United States is sinking,'' said Madeleine Albright, who was secretary of state under President Bill Clinton. ``Osama bin Laden has been able to do something that 40 years of communism was unable to do, which is to divide Europe from the United States.''
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