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IRAN: Ahmadinejad says his country is respected; polls say the world doesn't agree

December 9, 2009 |  7:33 am

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Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad likes to describe his government as a popular and respected player in world affairs.

But recent polls indicate that Iran’s stature around the globe is not as high as its leader claims, even in parts of the Muslim world.

In an interview on Dec. 1, Ahmadinejad said that "world public opinion supports the Iranian nation and has turned against the West,” according to Alalam News.

While on the campaign trail during presidential elections in June, Ahmadinejad argued that Iran was one of “the most respected nations in the world.”

But a series of recent global polls don't entirely square up with the claims made by Ahmadinejad.

In fact, a new report based on polls issued by World Public Opinion -- a collaborative research project managed by the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland -- suggests that Iran is among the world’s most negatively viewed countries.

For example, a joint poll conducted in February by the BBC, the global polling firm GlobeScan and PIPA found that most people in 15 out of 21 countries polled perceived Iran as having mostly a negative influence in world affairs.

The only country in the poll that leaned toward a positive view of Iran's influence in the world was India, 24% positive compared with 17% negative.

Similar data emerged last spring in a poll conducted by Pew Global Attitudes in 25 nations  Except for Pakistan and Indonesia, majorities in the countries polled had an unfavorable view of Iran.

Ahmadinejad himself did not enjoy high public ratings in the polls, especially when it comes to foreign policy.

When World Public Opinion conducted a survey on Ahmadinejad and his policies before Iran’s presidential elections, respondents in 14 out of 20 countries, with the U.S., Germany and France in the lead, said they had low confidence that Ahmadinejad would “do the right thing regarding world affairs.” Only 28% said they had confidence in him.

Although the Iranian president tends to enjoy higher ratings in some countries with large Muslim populations, such as Pakistan (75%), the Palestinian territories (57%) and Nigeria (50%), other Muslim nations give him lower grades. In Egypt and Turkey, for example, Ahmadinejad received 39% and 33% approval ratings, respectively.

Aside from his foreign policy, people did not seem convinced about Ahmadinejad’s claims that Iran is not seeking to develop nuclear weapons.

In 2006, the BBC along with GlobeScan and PIPA surveyed 25 countries around the world about Iran’s controversial nuclear program.

When asked whether Iran is producing nuclear fuel only for energy purposes or also to develop nuclear weapons, 60% of the respondents in the poll said they believed Iran sought to develop nuclear weapons while only 17% said they believed it was using nuclear fuel strictly for the country’s energy needs. Majorities in each of the 25 countries where the poll was conducted said they would be concerned “if Iran were to develop nuclear weapons.”

-- Alexandra Sandels in Beirut

Photo: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Credit: AFP/Getty Images

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