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Tsunami aid, democracy focus help U.S. image, survey finds


WASHINGTON - The United States' battered image has improved slightly in Europe, Russia and the Middle East, boosted by U.S. aid to tsunami victims and the Bush administration's focus on democracy in the Middle East, according to a 16-nation poll released yesterday by the Pew Research Center.

However, people in European and Muslim nations continue to hold unfavorable opinions of the United States, and large majorities in most nations surveyed believe U.S. foreign policies do not take their interests into account, the survey found.

In Indonesia, where U.S. relief efforts after the December tsunami were widely hailed, the U.S. favorability rating jumped from 15 percent in 2003 to 38 percent in 2005 - even though 47 percent of those surveyed said they were less favorably inclined toward the United States as a result of its calls for more global democracy.

China was rated favorably more often than the United States in Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Holland and Russia, the poll found. In Canada, 58 percent of respondents had a favorable view of China and 59 percent had a favorable view of the United States.

The Pew poll interviewed 16,766 people in 16 nations for its ninth annual survey. Its findings have been closely watched, including by the Bush administration, particularly because approval ratings crashed on the eve of the Iraq war.

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