West wants Gaddafi gone, but divided over how: Reuters poll

By Mohammed Abbas

LONDON (Reuters) – Most Britons, Americans, French and Italians think the West should aim to oust Muammar Gaddafi, but concerns over costs, aims and the possible outcomes of the NATO mission in Libya highlight divisions in the alliance.

A Reuters/Ipsos MORI poll found most people in Britain, Italy and the United States felt their country cannot afford military action, while a majority in all countries polled except France felt NATO action in Libya did not have clear objectives.

The alliance’s war planes have conducted more than 1,700 sorties over the north African country since taking over from a coalition led by France, the U.S. and Britain to enact a United Nations resolution protecting civilians from Gaddafi’s forces.

Fighter jets and missiles launched from war ships have targeted Gadaffi’s military infrastructure and enforced a no-fly zone and an arms embargo, in an effort to halt Gaddafi’s attacks on regions opposed to his 41 years of oppressive rule.

Mass protests in mid-February wrested much of east Libya from his grip, but fighting between his forces and armed rebels since then has reached a stalemate despite Western intervention.

Earlier on Tuesday, the French and British foreign ministers called on NATO to do more to protect Libyan civilians.

The poll was conducted last week, and found that 63 percent of Britons, 71 percent of Americans, 67 percent of the French, and 76 percent of Italians wanted the West to help oust Gaddafi, but results were mixed when questioned on the NATO mission.

Only half of Britons, 55 percent of Americans, and 40 percent of Italians support allied military action in Libya. In France, which has led calls to use force in Libya, support was higher at 63 percent.

Most Western nations are sharply cutting spending to rein in ballooning budget deficits, and 79 percent of Britons, 74 percent of Americans and 62 percent of Italians felt their country could not afford military action in Libya.

Only half of the French felt they could afford it, although a much higher 65 percent felt the mission had clear objectives. Only 49 percent of Britons, 44 percent of Americans and 44 percent of Italians felt the same.

There was little consensus on what the outcome of Western military action in Libya might be, with results mainly split between expectations of a stalemate and the possibility of a new democratically elected government.

The poll was conducted online between April 5-7 in Britain, the U.S. and France, and was conducted by telephone on April 4 in Italy. Interviewees were aged between 16 and 64 and were a representative sample of this age range in each country.

Data are weighted to match the profile of the population.

(Editing by Jon Hemming)

West wants Gaddafi gone, but divided over how: Reuters poll