updated 2/7/2006 5:49:56 PM ET 2006-02-07T22:49:56

Americans’ fears about Iran have grown sharply over the last few months as efforts by the United States and Europe to slow Tehran’s nuclear program have been firmly rejected, a poll found.

More people in this country now rate Iran as the biggest threat to the U.S., 27 percent, than say that about any other country, including North Korea, China and Iraq, according to the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

As recently as October, Iraq and China were seen as the biggest threats, closely followed by North Korea.

“The threat from Iran has really penetrated, with two of three saying Iran’s nuclear program represents a major threat,” said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center. “Among people who have been following news about the issue, there’s even greater concern.”

Iranian leaders say their nuclear program is aimed only at producing nuclear power for their country, but officials in the U.S. and Europe are worried that Iran is developing nuclear weapons. In recent days, Iran ended cooperation with the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog agency and said it would start uranium enrichment and bar surprise inspections of its facilities.

Worries about nuclear weapons for terror
Two-thirds or more of those polled said they think that if Iran develops nuclear weapons, it is likely to attack Israel, Europe or the United States. Even more, 82 percent, say it’s likely that a nuclear-armed Iran would provide nuclear weapons to terrorists.

Questions about Iran’s nuclear program have been referred to the United Nations Security Council. U.S. officials have said that all options should be considered to deal with Iran’s refusal to slow down its nuclear program — including military options.

More than three-fourths say the United Nations should take the lead in dealing with Iran on the nuclear issue, while 17 percent said the U.S. should take the lead role.

In other poll findings:

  • Almost nine in 10, 85 percent, agreed with President Bush’s statement that the nation is addicted to oil.
  • Half thought the country can end its reliance on foreign oil sources within the next two decades, while 42 percent did not.
  • Requiring better fuel efficiency in autos and providing federal money and tax breaks for alternative energy sources are the most popular steps to address the nation’s energy needs, with more than four in five supporting those steps.
  • About two-thirds support providing more funding for mass transit.
  • People are split on promoting more nuclear power, with 44 percent favoring it and 49 percent opposed.

The poll of 1,502 adults was taken Feb. 1-5 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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