The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Anti-US feelings rise in West Asia

Washington, Sept. 17 (Reuters): People in Muslim nations have an increasingly low opinion of the US, despite the Bush administrationís effort to burnish the US image after the September 11, 2001, attacks, according to a General Accounting Office report.

The state departmentís attempts to win friends abroad lacked a comprehensive strategy and was understaffed, the investigative and audit agency for Congress said.

The report cited public opinion polls of US allies that showed favourable views of the US had declined in recent years.

The most negative views were found in the Muslim countries in West Asia and Central Asia.

Ä countries the Bush administration wants to enlist in its war on terror.

The U.S.-led invasion of Iraq worsened Muslim views of the United States, the report said, citing a Pew Research Center poll done in March.

While the administration has boosted the budget for public diplomacy by 9 percent to about $1 billion and launched a high-profile effort to reach Muslim countries, the GAO said the State Department had not completed a plan to carry it out.

The report said the State Department did not have a system for measuring progress in its diplomacy goals, but instead relied on anecdotal evidence such as favorable news articles or the number of speeches given by ambassadors.

It said the department did not have sufficient time or staff for the public diplomacy effort, and many Foreign Service officers complained they were burdened with administrative tasks or felt they were inadequately trained in that area.

Charlotte Beers, the administration's first undersecretary for public diplomacy, resigned last spring because of health reasons, and has not been replaced.

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