May 16, 2011 / 8:58 PM / 7 years ago

East Libyans split on foreign troop intervention

BENGHAZI, Libya, May 16 (Reuters) - Libyans in rebel-held areas are split over whether they would accept foreign troops on their soil, with most only willing to accept their presence in a supporting role, a poll showed on Monday.

A near-stalemate in the fighting between armed rebels and Gaddafi loyalists, despite NATO air strikes, has prompted some analysts to suggest ground intervention by Western forces may be necessary.

Garyounis University, in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, polled 1,638 people in seven towns and cities including Benghazi, Misrata and Ajdabiyah on the issue last month.

In a presentation on Monday, the university’s Fathi Ali said 48 percent of those polled rejected any intervention by foreign ground troops, while 44 percent disagreed with that view.

However, 87 percent said they would accept foreign troops on Libyan soil to provide technical advice or military training, and another 87 percent approved of foreign soldiers for “consulting and organisation”.

Some 80 percent said they would accept foreign ground troops to secure the safe passage of humanitarian aid, but the same percentage rejected their presence on a large scale.

In the absence of foreign ground troops to help end the conflict in Libya, the most popular alternative among those polled was to better arm the rebels.

The poll was independently commissioned and funded, and those polled were a “systematic random sample” of society, Ali said.

“The university and the research center is a completely independent body. Nobody funded it. We did just because we feel it is our duty to provide policy makers, inside and outside Libya, with an idea of the opinion of Libyan people ... in a scientific way,” he told reporters.

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