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British stiffen their backs, ready to to risk lives in war to regain islands

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''I think we British would stick it out even if it does come to shooting and lives being lost. We are like that -- our backs go to the wall and we don't give in.''

The speaker was the wife of a successful engineer, well groomed and articulate as she stood in a spacious garden surrounded by two dogs and three children.

Like millions of other British people these days, she was wrestling with the prospect of a war in the South Atlantic. She did not like it and she did not want it, but if it came, she was prepared to see it through.

On the other side of London, a tall chartered (certified public) accountant stood in another tree-lined garden and agreed. ''Even if taxes go up to pay for a war,'' he said, ''I think you will find that the British people will grit their teeth and pay. People don't think Argentina can push us around. They just don't.

''Of course, most people think the British Navy can win easily and quickly. I'm not sure people have considered a long period of fighting.

''But Mrs. (Prime Minister Margaret) Thatcher is right to use force to support diplomacy. People agree about that.''

These two British voices sounded in Monitor interviews as two late public-opinion polls here confirm that Mrs. Thatcher is winning public support so far.

A poll of more than 1,000 people for British commercial television, released April 25, showed 79 percent supporting government strategy.

And when 463 adults were questioned for The Economist weekly magazine April 20-21 (when London was cool to Argentine suggestions and Foreign Secretary Francis Pym was about to leave for Washington), 85 percent supported the decision to send the task force. This was up from 83 percent from a poll of more than 1,000 people the week before. The percentage generally satisfied with Mrs. Thatcher's handling of the crisis so far rose from 60 to 68 percent.

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