January 20, 2009 / 3:43 AM / 10 years ago

Europe opposes more troops for Afghanistan: poll

LONDON (Reuters) - Most voters in leading European countries believe their governments should resist any request by incoming U.S. President Barack Obama to send more troops to Afghanistan, according to an opinion poll published on Tuesday.

A U.S. helicopter lands at a military base in Ghazni province October 30, 2008. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood

The Harris poll for the Financial Times showed “clear majorities” in Britain, France, Italy and Germany believed their governments must not send more forces to Afghanistan if Obama asked them to do so, the newspaper said.

Obama, who will be sworn into office later on Tuesday, has said he would make Afghanistan the central front in his fight against terrorism and has committed himself to sending more U.S. forces to tackle a worsening insurgency.

But many European allies have been reluctant to commit more troops to an increasingly dangerous operation.

The Financial Times said 60 percent of German respondents in the survey opposed Berlin sending more troops to Afghanistan.

In Britain, the second biggest contributor to NATO’s mission in Afghanistan with more than 8,000 troops, 57 percent of those polled rejected sending more forces.

In France and Italy, 53 percent were opposed. Only in Spain was there a majority willing to consider sending extra troops, the Financial Times said.

The poll of 6,299 people, conducted online between January 8 and 15, found voters in Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Spain believed the international financial crisis must be at the top of Obama’s agenda.

The poll showed voters would like to see Obama reaching out to Iran, which clashed with President George W. Bush’s administration over its nuclear program.

Obama has said he may be willing to reverse Bush’s policy by offering direct talks with Iran.

At least two-thirds of voters in the five European countries surveyed, as well as in the United States, said Obama should personally meet leading figures in the Iranian government, the Financial Times said.

The poll showed Obama enjoyed high approval ratings in Europe.

Reporting by Adrian Croft; Editing by Ralph Gowling

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