The world questions America

By Nathan Yates

MILLIONS of people across the world are against the war in Afghanistan - and many are backing Osama bin Laden.

And the backlash is far from limited to Muslim nations.

In Brazil, supporters of Rio de Janeiro's two main soccer clubs wear pro-bin Laden T-shirts to games and unfurl al-Qaeda flags when goals are scored.

Ghetto drug barons who see the terrorist as a symbol of their resistance to the US war on narcotics sell $1 bags of cocaine with bin Laden's picture on them.

And the country's left-wing youth views the man suspected of masterminding the September 11 atrocities as an icon meriting the same respect as the likes of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara.

The president of Mexico, Vicente Fox, is facing fierce criticism for backing the US.

Folk songs backing bin Laden are rife. One, The Mistake of the CIA, says: "They are looking for you, bin Laden, the terrorist the CIA trained, the biggest mistake of the US Government."

Opinion polls across Europe show an anti-US feeling. In France, support for the Afghan bombing has dropped from 66 per cent to 51 per cent.

It's a similar story in Germany, where 65 per cent want the US attacks to end. In Spain, 69 per cent say stop the bombing.

The war has bolstered anti-American opinion in Russia, where president Vladimir Putin's backing of the US has been slated. One poll showed nearly half of all Russians think the Taliban will beat the US.

And Vladimir Lukin, deputy speaker of the lower house of the Russian parliament, said he believed the allied coalition was at risk as "the US does not offer a light at the end of the tunnel".

Many Africans believe there are suggestions of colonialism and racism in the US attacks.

Garth le Pere, director of the Institute for Global dialogue in South Africa said: "No one in his right mind can defend the gruesome murder of innocent children and the elderly in pursuit of one man whose guilt cannot be proved beyond doubt."

In China, public opinion is summed up by Xu Maomao, 31, who attended a candlelit vigil in Beijing for the victims of the September 11 attacks.

He said: "I supported the military strikes at first, but now I don't know what to say."