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Copyright 2000 The New York Times Company The New York Times April 23, 2000, Sunday, Late Edition - Final SECTION: Section 1; Page 7; Column 1; Foreign Desk LENGTH: 742 words HEADLINE: Americans Of Two Minds On Sanctions, A Poll Finds BYLINE: By BARBARA CROSSETTE BODY: The more Americans know about the world, the more likely they are to favor diplomacy over punitive sanctions in dealing with troublesome foreign countries, a poll has found. Embargoes, they say, not only isolate the nations at which they are aimed but also hurt American business. When Americans lack information about a country, or when their leaders do not adequately publicize and explain their policy thinking, many fall back on long-established stereotypes of "bad" and "good" nations, the poll found. Judgments about how to deal with those nations are then made on those images. The survey -- by First International Resources, a business consulting group, and the polling organization Penn, Schoen & Berland -- was done in two parts for the sake of comparison. A national sample of 995 average voters was made first, and then 176 knowledgeable "elites" working in government, academic life and research institutes were surveyed. The full poll results are expected to be made public next week. The survey, based on interviews from Feb. 28 to March 21, focused primarily on attitudes toward economic sanctions on Iran, but when respondents were asked to name "good" and "bad" countries, the findings suggest that the attitudes apply to sanctions policy toward other nations. Respondents in the general public knew very little about Iran and the recent political changes there, including gains by moderates in parliamentary elections. Only 15 percent of them had heard about advances by Iranians who advocate reform; only 2 percent knew of the 1997 election of a more moderate Iranian president, Mohammad Khatami. Among more knowledgeable people, 58 percent had heard about the shifts toward moderation. Both groups, however, were still instinctively unfavorable to Iran, based on its reputation for support of terrorism and Islamic militancy. Only Iraq outranked it on the enemies' list among the general population. But the elite respondents were far more likely to say that Iran had changed -- they ranked Serbia, Libya and Iraq as worse cases -- and that Iranian moderates should be helped. These more knowledgeable people also said that sanctions got in the way of dialogue with Iran. "Both the general public and the elites believe it is extremely important to keep channels of communication open with countries like Iran," the poll concluded, "and that penalizing or isolating rogue countries is not the way to get them to change." Sanctions have been a major policy tool of the Clinton administration, whether imposed by the United States alone or through the United Nations. Other nations, including American allies in Europe, have been critical of long-running embargoes and other sanctions, saying that they rarely hurt dictators but can harm ordinary people. They also get in the way of international business, or create tensions when the United States tries to force other nations to adhere to its own trade and investment restrictions. Recently, an American embargo on Iran was eased to allow for importing certain goods like caviar, pistachios and Persian carpets -- a move of which 6 of 10 poll respondents in the general public were unaware. Sports exchanges that have taken place drew universal support in the poll, and 77 percent of average voters and 90 percent of the elite respondents said sanctions should be lifted if Iran responded favorably to an initial easing of the embargo. In Congress, a small but widening movement is questioning the long-term value of inflexible embargoes. There are concerns that in Iraq, for example, a decade of sanctions may be strengthening the hand of Saddam Hussein while causing unacceptable hardships to the Iraqi people. Representative Tony P. Hall, Democrat of Ohio, was in Iraq last week to assess the cumulative effects of the comprehensive sanctions imposed in 1990 after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. He is expected to announce the results of his trip today. The new poll found that while Americans continued to think that sanctions should remain a tool of foreign policy and that big business would from time to time have to make sacrifices because of embargoes, respondents in both groups preferred sanctions to be imposed through international organizations. They also expressed concern about the use of sanctions if American jobs were at risk, and when presented with facts about American losses, were more likely to want sanctions lifted, or at least eased. http://www.nytimes.com LANGUAGE: ENGLISH LOAD-DATE: April 23, 2000 ----------------------------------------------- FREE! 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