Support for war slips in UK

Updated on Mar 31, 2003 07:04 PM IST

A new poll indicated that public backing for the Iraq war in UK had slipped 5 points to 54% for the first time since the fighting began.

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PTI | ByAgence France-Presse, London

Public support in Britain for the war in Iraq has slipped for the first time since the fighting began, as the government ruled out any allied "pause" in the campaign to overthrow Saddam Hussein.

With British troops still unable to capture the key southern city of Basra, a YouGov poll for the Daily Telegraph newspaper, released on Monday, indicated that public backing for the war had slipped five points to 54 per cent.

Thirty-eight per cent were opposed to the war, up three points on the previous YouGov poll carried out at the end of last week when 59 per cent rallied behind the conflict that began 11 days ago.

Observers said the slump in public support for the war reflected a growing realization that the US-led war - with British forces stuck outside the main southern city of Basra - will not be over as soon as many had hoped.

But Prime Minister Tony Blair's official spokesman said on Monday that he was unfazed by reports that the war had become bogged down.

"The Prime Minister has not been carried away by the successes nor has he been overwhelmed by the difficulties and problems," he said. "He remains relentlessly focused on the big picture."

Earlier in the day, Britain's junior defence minister Adam Ingham - echoing the Pentagon's position - ruled out any "pause" in the allied push to oust Saddam and rid Iraq of weapons of mass destruction.

"There has to come a time when you need to rest your troops, you need to re-supply your troops, and remember just how much advance has been made in this campaign," Ingham said on Sky News television.

"But it's not a pause. People are using the word 'pause.' If you look at what has been happening overnight and elsewhere in Iraq involving US troops, this is certainly not a pause. The conflict continues."

Blair's spokesman revealed that the prime minister had briefed at least five fellow world leaders over the weekend on his Camp David war summit last week with US President George W. Bush.

The five included Europe's main anti-war leaders - French President Jacques Chirac and Germany Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder - and Russian head of state Vladimir Putin, the spokesman said.

Blair also spoke with Prime Minster John Howard of Australia, which has joined the war, and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, who is backing Bush on the war despite overwhelming opposition among Spaniards.

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