- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 4, 2008

Muslim-majority nations are yearning for a stronger United Nations, freed from what they regard as a prevailing influence of the United States, a new survey reveals.

The poll conducted in Egypt, Turkey, Jordan, Iran, Indonesia, Palestinian territories, Azerbaijan and Nigeria by WorldPublicOpinion.org, a global network of research centers, found that people in those countries favor a more dynamic United Nations while simultaneously viewing the international organization as dominated by the U.S. and failing to deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“There is a surface negativity about the U.N. in Muslim countries, but if you scratch underneath, there is actually a tremendous enthusiasm for the role that could play a robust U.N. able to stand up to the United States,” Steven Kull, director of WorldPublicOpinion.org, told The Washington Times.

Nearly every option for giving greater powers to the U.N. received strong support.

A vast majority of Muslims favored the U.N. Security Council having its own standing peacekeeping force (64 percent) and being entitled to authorize military force to stop a country from supporting terrorist groups (76 percent) or to prevent genocide (77 percent).

On the other hand, people in Muslim countries distinguished a United Nations that they think should be in principle a vital actor on the international stage from the existing U.N., which many see as dominated by the United States and achieving mixed results in its current efforts.

As many as 68 percent of Egyptians, 63 percent of Palestinians and 53 percent of Turks said they felt “the U.S. can almost always make the U.N. do what the U.S. wants.”

The survey also found Muslim people overwhelmingly critical of U.N. efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with an average of 53 percent considering them as “not helpful,” a statement correlated with the perception that the U.S. controls the United Nations.

“The U.S. has used its veto to prevent resolutions of the Security Council dealing with Israel,” Mr. Kull noted. And even after the announcement that President-elect Barack Obama will nominate Susan Rice to be the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., “Muslim countries have low expectations for a change because they perceive the Israeli lobby as very powerful in the U.S., leaving little latitude for Obama,” he said.

“There is a widespread view that the U.N. should have more power, including in the U.S.” Mr. Kull added. “People tend to hope that the U.N. can solve their problems and are often disappointed. This frustration is stronger in the Muslim countries.”

The survey was conducted in two waves between Jan. 12 and Feb. 18 and between July 21 Aug. 31. Margins of error range from two to four percentage points.

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