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Two-thirds of Icelanders favour more EU talks

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(REYKJAVIK) - Nearly two-thirds of Icelanders want to pursue European Union membership talks and put any bid to a national referendum, a poll published Monday showed.

According to the poll by the Frettabladid daily, 65.4 percent of those questioned want Reykjavik to pursue EU talks while 34.6 percent want the application to be retracted.

The figures are similar to those of a September 2010 poll the daily ran on the issue which showed 64.2 percent wanted EU membership talks to continue and 32.8 percent said they wanted the application to be yanked.

The survey did not say what percentage of Icelanders would vote for or against EU membership if a referendum were held.

Negotiations opened in July 2010, a year after Iceland, a country of 320,000 people, submitted its application in the wake of a financial crisis that decimated its banking sector and bolstered those who argued that the EU could provide economic security.

Iceland and 27-country bloc are at odds over fishing rights, which heated up late last year with the so-called "mackerel war" after Iceland unilaterally multiplied its catch quota by 65.

The island nation's whaling has also soured some to the idea of becoming a member.

Surveys indicate that economic stabilisation in Iceland and the eurozone's debt woes have also contributed to slowing enthusiasm for EU membership.

Frettabladid quizzed 800 Icelanders by telephone on January 19 for Monday's poll.

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