Poll: Obama More Popular in Mideast

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SAUDI ARABIA - A survey conducted in March revealed that U.S. President Barack Obama is more popular among Arabs in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan, than the country he represents.

According to the poll, Obama "currently enjoys widespread optimism among citizens of that region that he will have a positive effect on their own country, the Middle East, the United States and indeed the world," said officials from Ipsos, the organization that conducted the survey.

Obama's approval rating, which averaged 48 percent among the 7,000 adults in the survey, ranged from 58 percent among Jordanians to a low of 35 percent in Egypt.

Egyptians also rated the United States lower than neighboring Arab countries, with 22 percent of respondents holding a positive view of the U.S.

Overall, 33 percent of those surveyed view the United States favorably, while 43 percent are negative about America; 14 percent were neutral and 10 percent said they had no opinion on the U.S.

According to a statement by Ipsos, the results show that Obama has a unique opportunity to "bridge the gap" and raise the goodwill of Arab nations toward the U.S.

During his upcoming visit to Egypt on June 4, Obama is slated to deliver a speech directed to the Muslim world, which according to White House officials is intended to repair the damage fostered by the Bush administration, in part arising from U.S. military action in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Meanwhile, Obama's national security advisor General (ret.) Jim Jones said on Sunday the U.S. would continue its air strikes in Afghanistan despite the civilian causalities, The Associated Press reported.

"We can't fight with one hand tied behind our back," Jones said, affirming that military decisions would continue to be made on the best intelligence available, at the same time being careful "that we don't unnecessarily wound or kill innocent civilians," he said.

Jones said the Taliban, which now controls up to 40 percent of Afghanistan, has no compunction about using civilians as human shields.

Israel has long faced the same ideology with Gaza-based Hamas terrorists and Lebanese-based Hezbollah fighters, who also use the civilian population, including children, as human shields.

Sources: Haaretz, The Associated Press

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