Bush rating on Iraq improves, new poll finds

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WASHINGTON, Sep 13 (Reuters) Approval of President George W Bush's handling of the Iraq war has risen, according to a poll released on Wednesday on the eve of a speech by Bush in which he is expected to endorse a plan for a gradual troop withdrawal.

Just 30 per cent of Americans approve of Bush's handling of Iraq, but that was an 8-point jump from July, said the latest NBC/Wall Street Journal poll.

The boost came primarily from Republicans, men and independents, NBC reported.

In his televised speech tonight, Bush is expected to accept the recommendation of the US commander in Iraq to draw down about 30,000 ''surge'' forces by next summer.

The plan by Gen David Petraeus would bring US troop numbers down to about 130,000, roughly the level before Bush ordered a troop increase in January to help stabilize Baghdad.

Senate Democrats already have rejected the Petraeus plan, saying it falls far short of what American wanted.

Fifty-six per cent of Americans said the war was not worth the US casualties or the costs involved, compared with 35 percent who believed ousting Saddam Hussein was worth it, the NBC/Wall Street Journal survey found.

More than 3,700 US troops and tens of thousands of Iraqis have been killed since the war began in 2003.

Asked what was the most acceptable outcome to the war, 24 per cent of those polled said US troops should remain in Iraq until it became a stable democracy, while 26 per cent wanted the troops to leave now and 37 per cent wanted them to leave within the next year, NBC reported.

The poll of 1,002 adults was taken from Friday to Monday and had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 per centage points.

Reuters SZ VP0743

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