29 June 2007

Image of U.S. drops but Lebanon is the exception

Beirut - The image of the United States has "plummeted" in many parts of the world, with mounting distrust of President Bush and U.S. foreign policy expressed not only in Muslim countries but also among traditional allies

.. according to a survey of global attitudes released yesterday.

Still, majorities in 25 of the 46 countries surveyed said they had positive views of the United States, with particularly positive sentiments coming from Africa, suggesting that anti-Americanism has grown "deeper, but not wider."

Those surveyed expressed little confidence in other world leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. And China's increasing economic and military might is "triggering considerable anxiety," the survey found, though President Hu Jintao "remains largely unknown in many parts of the world."

"The image of China has slipped significantly among the publics of other major nations," the study concluded. "Opinion about Russia is mixed, but . . . the Russian leader's negatives have soared to the point that they mirror the nearly worldwide lack of confidence in George W. Bush."

The research was conducted this spring by the nonpartisan, nonprofit Pew Research Center and covered 46 countries and the Palestinian territories. The study assesses global attitudes concerning policy, leadership and world threats. The organization conducted its first major global survey in 2002.

A majority of respondents in 30 of the 46 countries criticized the United States for what they saw as acting without taking the views of other countries into consideration. Support was strong for a U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq, and there was "considerable" opposition among those surveyed to U.S. and NATO operations in Afghanistan.

Among Americans, 56 percent said they favored pulling troops out of Iraq, and 42 percent said the same for Afghanistan.

A consistently negative view of the United States persisted in Middle Eastern and Asian countries with Muslim majorities. Favorable views of the United States among Pakistanis dropped to just 15 percent, and among Turks to 9 percent.

Lebanon ( Map pictured left) stood out as a notable exception in the region. Forty-seven percent of Lebanese said they had a favorable view of the United States; the number was 27 percent in 2003. But Lebanese opinions of the United States varied according to religion. Eighty-two percent of Christians surveyed expressed positive views of the United States, compared with 52 percent of Sunni Muslims and only 7 percent of Shiite Muslims.

In Africa, more than "three-quarters of participants in Ivory Coast, Kenya, Ghana, Mali, and Ethiopia say they have a very or somewhat favorable impression" of the United States, the report said.

But in several African countries, a religious divide was also evident. In Ethiopia, for example, 77 percent expressed a positive view of the United States. Among Ethiopian Christians the number rose to 93 percent, while Muslims were nearly evenly divided. In Nigeria, 70 percent of those surveyed held positive views of the United States. But when religion was taken into account, 94 percent of Nigerian Christians expressed a positive opinion while Nigerian Muslims were also nearly evenly divided in their views.

Respondents in a "diverse group of countries" listed environmental degradation as a serious global threat. "In North America and Latin America, majorities in every country -- except the U.S. -- say global warming is a very serious problem," the study found.

A majority or a clear plurality branded the United States as the country "hurting the world's environment the most."

In China, where a booming economy has contributed to severe pollution, 70 percent of respondents cited environmental concerns as a top global danger and 42 percent said global warming was a very serious problem.

China came in a distant second as the country seen as most hurting the environment.

Among Americans, 37 percent listed the environment in general as a top concern, a figure lower than in any other advanced industrialized country, and 47 percent said global warming was a "very" serious problem. One in three Americans blamed the United States for pollution problems.

In other areas, there was disagreement on what constitutes the world's gravest dangers. The spread of nuclear weapons, for example, troubled 68 percent of Japanese and 66 percent of Israelis surveyed, but just slightly more than 20 percent in France and South Africa.

AIDS and other infectious diseases drew the greatest concern in Africa, perhaps a reflection of high rates of HIV and the related loss on that continent. A widening gap between rich and poor was also a primary concern in Africa and several other regions.

Overall, Americans said they believe the United States offers a better life to immigrants. And despite the low image of U.S. policies around the world, most people surveyed in other countries also viewed the United States as a land of opportunity. "The perception that America provides good opportunities for emigrants is common even in countries where U.S. favorability is low or has dipped in recent years," the survey found.

More than 45,000 people were interviewed by telephone or in person for the study, which has a margin of error of two to four percentage points for each country.

Sources: Washington Post

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Lebanon Time-Line

Introducing Lebanon

Coolly combining the ancient with the ultramodern, Lebanon is one of the most captivating countries in the Middle East. From the Phoenician findings of Tyre (Sour) and Roman Baalbek's tremendous temple to Beirut's BO18 and Bernard Khoury's modern movement, the span of Lebanon's history leaves many visitors spinning. Tripoli (Trablous) is considered to have the best souk in the country and is famous for its Mamluk architecture. It's well equipped with a taste of modernity as well; Jounieh, formerly a sleepy fishing village, is a town alive with nightclubs and glitz on summer weekends.

With all of the Middle East's best bits - warm and welcoming people, mind-blowing history and considerable culture, Lebanon is also the antithesis of many people's imaginings of the Middle East: mostly mountainous with skiing to boot, it's also laid-back, liberal and fun. While Beirut is fast becoming the region's party place, Lebanon is working hard to recapture its crown as the 'Paris of the Orient'.

The rejuvenation of the Beirut Central District is one of the largest, most ambitious urban redevelopment projects ever undertaken. Travellers will find the excitement surrounding this and other developments and designs palpable - and very infectious.

Finally, Lebanon's cuisine is considered the richest of the region. From hummus to hommard (lobster), you'll dine like a king. With legendary sights, hospitality, food and nightlife, what more could a traveller want?

Introducing Beirut

What Beirut is depends entirely on where you are. If you’re gazing at the beautifully reconstructed colonial relics and mosques of central Beirut’s Downtown, the city is a triumph of rejuvenation over disaster.

If you’re in the young, vibrant neighbourhoods of Gemmayzeh or Achrafiye, Beirut is about living for the moment: partying, eating and drinking as if there’s no tomorrow. If you’re standing in the shadow of buildings still peppered with bullet holes, or walking the Green Line with an elderly resident, it’s a city of bitter memories and a dark past. If you’re with Beirut’s Armenians, Beirut is about salvation; if you’re with its handful of Jews, it’s about hiding your true identity. Here you’ll find the freest gay scene in the Arab Middle East, yet homosexuality is still illegal. If you’re in one of Beirut’s southern refugee camps, Beirut is about sorrow and displacement; other southern districts are considered a base for paramilitary operations and south Beirut is home to infamous Hezbollah secretary general, Hassan Nasrallah. For some, it’s a city of fear; for others, freedom.

Throw in maniacal drivers, air pollution from old, smoking Mercedes taxis, world-class universities, bars to rival Soho and coffee thicker than mud, political demonstrations, and swimming pools awash with more silicone than Miami. Add people so friendly you’ll swear it can’t be true, a political situation existing on a knife-edge, internationally renowned museums and gallery openings that continue in the face of explosions, assassinations and power cuts, and you’ll find that you’ve never experienced a capital city quite so alive and kicking – despite its frequent volatility.