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Huge support for Chirac stance

Chirac: War will have "serious consequences for the future."

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PARIS, France -- French President Jacques Chirac's strong opposition to a U.S.-led war has received enormous public support with a new poll showing 92 percent of the population are behind his stance.

An IFOP poll published Friday for Le Figaro daily newspaper was up from 86 percent in a pre-war survey on Monday. The poll, which interviewed over 1,000 people, found 87 percent were opposed to force against Iraq, while 62 percent said France's international position has been boosted because of its anti-war stance, Reuters reported.

Almost half of those interviewed believed the main goal of the U.S.-led campaign in Iraq was to take control of Iraqi oil fields while only 3 percent believed the aim of the war was to disarm Iraq.

The French government has expressed "deep concern" over the military operations in Iraq and hoped the conflict "which has just begun will end as soon as possible."

The French "hope strongly that all efforts will be made to prevent the local population from suffering further" and "call on the countries of the region to refrain from any move that would aggravate the situation," a statement from the foreign ministry said.

Officials "continue to be particularly attentive to the security of French people abroad and are following the developing situation with the greatest attention."

France's National Assembly briefly suspended its Thursday session in a symbolic protest, with deputies denouncing an "illegitimate and dangerous war," Reuters reported.

In a televised address, Chirac said the war would have "serious consequences for the future."

"France regrets this action taken without the approval of the United Nations," said Chirac, who had threatened to veto any U.N. resolution that led to war.

"I hope these operations are as fast as possible, with the least fatalities, and that they do not lead to a humanitarian catastrophe.

"No matter how long this conflict lasts, it will have serious consequences for the future. We must join with our allies and the whole international community to deal together with the challenges that await us."

Earlier, the French government said it was stepping up security against feared terrorist strikes on its soil, Reuters reported.

A large police presence was deployed around the U.S. Embassy and the neighboring Place de la Concorde in central Paris, with up to 20 police trucks lined up in front of the building and metal barriers all round the embassy.

The interior ministry said it was deploying a further 500 soldiers to join the regular police force and an existing deployment of 300 soldiers in surveillance at train stations and other public areas deemed at risk, Reuters said.

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