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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

British Polls Show Public Support of War, Labour Party Still Dropping

Aired September 23, 2003 - 10:48   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go to Christiane Amanpour who is standing by in London to talk a little bit more about the perspective from Great Britain this morning. Good morning, Christiane.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Paula. Well, of course a preview of the president's speech also along with Kofi Annan's speech made the headlines in the newspapers today.

In terms of what the president could expect, they here at British newspapers were saying that obviously he's going to the U.N. because they need help in Iraq. That much is clear. But will a U.N. resolution, which here it's predicted will pass, will it mean, as you've been discussing, the very, very necessary billions of dollars to help in the reconstruction and rebuilding effort? And will it mean the all important contribution of troops to a multinational force? Again vitally needed to help Americans there keep peace and security.

So those are the outstanding questions and they won't be answered any time soon. There is a donors (ph) conference planned for not long from now in Madrid, Spain. But so far they've only had pledges of $1.5 billion which sound a lot but in context to what they actually need it isn't quite certainly enough. So these are going to be very, very closely watched as to what will the international community deliver after this speech at the U.N.?

Also, some commentary about the differences you've been mentioning between the two speeches. Last year, president going to the U.N., rest of the world sort of thinking and giving him great credit for saying that he's going to go multinational. Well, it didn't, in fact, happen. In the end he did pretty much go it alone with the British into Iraq. Now they are saying, Well, was last year a sham? Has a lot of the goodwill been evaporated? Some commentators here saying.

And of course, Britain, which was the president's strongest supporter in the war, now showing a dramatic dropoff in support for that war. As we've been mentioning slightly earlier, just after Baghdad fell in April, 63 percent of British believe the war was justified. In the summer, 51 percent believe that. And now this month that's dropped to 38 percent.

So these are worrying for certainly Tony Blair who stood shoulder to shoulder with President Bush. And they're saying the reasons being weapons of mass destruction have not been found and of course the continued instability in Iraq -- Paula. ZAHN: Talk a little bit about the very specific poll numbers related to Prime Minister Tony Blair. It seemed like there was a couple months lag in the criticism of Tony Blair, similar criticism to catch up with President Bush here domestically.

AMANPOUR: Yes, these figures that I've just been telling you about do not particularly refer to Blair himself. These are about whether they believe if the war is justified or not. But they're all wrapped up, obviously, in the prime minister and the government.

And actually, the poll also says that the Labour Party of Prime Minister Blair has now hit 35 percent approval rate, which is the lowest, they're saying, in 11 years. And that's quite dramatic.

These -- what has happened over the summer has been a relentless drip, drip, drip and sometimes a torrent of public debate over the war. It was the Hutton inquiry that was instituted right after the death of the scientist David Kelly. That has really opened the file, if you like, on what the government did. How it sold the war on Iraq. And that has caused a lot of this dropoff in support, according to this poll here.

Also, the very simple fact they have not yet come up with weapons of mass destruction. People are asking why not? And the continued instability. People are watching it. It's broadcast. Britain has troops there. Britain has not taken the same level of casualties as America has but there have been deaths, there have been woundings. And there have been certain riots in the areas the British are in charge of, although in general it's more peaceful than it is in other parts of Iraq.

But all of these are taking -- it appears by these poll numbers, sort of a cumulative toll.

ZAHN: Christiane, we're going to leave it there for this time. We'd love to come back to you after the president has given his address to the general assembly.

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