Nearly two out of three Americans believe mothers of young children should not be sent to the gulf war zone, an Associated Press poll found.

"It's very disturbing for people to think that mothers can be soldiers," said Christine Williams, author of the 1989 book "Gender Differences at Work."While three-fifths of the 1,007 adults polled said most men are better suited for combat than most women, 56 percent said women in the U.S. armed forces should participate in the fighting against Iraq.

The poll was taken for the AP by ICR Survey Research Group of Media, Pa., on Feb. 13-17. Results have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Only 45 percent would be willing to have a woman from their family fight, compared with 74 percent willing to have a man from their family on the line.

More than half the men but only 40 percent of the women would be willing to have a woman in their family fight. Polls generally have shown women less supportive of the gulf war and other use of military force.

Judith Hicks Stiehn, provost of Florida International University and an expert on women in the military, cites another factor. Historically, fewer men than women favored a role for women in combat, until a flip-flop in the early 1970s. Men began feeling women should take responsibility for national defense as they won greater rights, she said.

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(Poll)

Associated Press Poll

Sending parents to war

Do you feel it is acceptable or unacceptable for the United States to sen women with young children to the war zone?

Acceptable 31%

Unacceptable 64%

No answer 4%

Do you feel it is acceptable or unacceptable for the United States to sen men with young children to the war zone?

Acceptable 68%

Unacceptable 28%

No answer 4%

Source: Associated Press poll taken Feb. 13-17 by ICR Survey Research Group of Media, Pa. The random sample of 1,007 American adults has a margin or error of +_ percentage points.