Hezbollah chief Sheikh Nassan Nasrallah is the most admired leader in the Arab world, according to a poll released recently by the Anwar Sadat Chair for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland.

Nasrallah seems to be gaining in popularity, with some 26 percent of respondents voicing support for him. Syrian President Bashar Assad also won an increase in popularity, according to the poll.

The survey also found that the majority of Arab public - in contrast to their governments - does not view Iran as a major threat.

Respondents said they believe Iran should be free to pursue its nuclear program and are opposed to international pressure to halt development. Some 44 percent of respondents said the outcome of a nuclear Iran would be beneficial for the region.

The poll found an increased interest within the Arab world regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, with some 86 percent of respondents calling it one of the top three most important issues facing the refion.

A majority of respondents support a two-state solution based on 1967 borders but an increasing number voiced pessimism about its prospects.

Some 50 percent of respondents believe that the failure of a two-state solution would lead to continued conflict, 9 percent believe it would eventually lead to a one-state solution and 7 percent think the Palestinian will eventually surrender to Israel.

The survery also found that 18 percent of Arab respondents sympathize with Hamas over Fatah, while 38 percent voiced equal sympathy for the rival factions. Some 15 percent of respondents blame Hamas for the situation in Gaza, while 23 percent believe Fatah is to blame.

Some 83 percent of respondents, meanwhile, voiced an unfavorable view of the United States, while 70 percent express no confidence in the American government. Most Arabs, however, ranked the U.S. as among the leaders of freedom and democracy.

The poll found that 32 percent of Arabs believe that America's Middle East policy will remain the same regardless of who wins the coming elections. Some 18 percent of respondents think Barack Obama has the best chance of bringing peace to the region, while 13 percent favor Hillary Clinton. Another 4 percent think McCain is the best candidate to advance Middle East peace.