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LARGER PICTURE

It seems unlikely that the latest pronouncements by United Nations arms inspectors to Iraq can prevent war from breaking out in the region. Although the chief UN inspector, Mr Hans Blix, has now declared that Baghdad was cooperating a great deal more, it is becoming clear that the United States of America is determined to install a new regime in Iraq. Mr Blix’s most recent statements have, however, further eroded the legitimacy of the Bush administration’s plans for the use of military force against Iraq. Not only did the chief UN inspector declare that Iraq had become “active, even more proactive” on issues of disarmament, but he also signalled that the UN team would welcome more time for the inspections. In addition, Mr Blix stated that the UN team had found no evidence to support US claims that Iraq had hidden weapons in mobile laboratories. This was the most startling part of his report to a key meeting of the UN security council.

It may be recalled that American intelligence officials had been arguing, for the past few weeks, that Baghdad was moving weapons of mass destruction, particularly biological weapons, in production units installed on trucks. The Blix report will make it even more difficult for the US to convince the growing rank of sceptics of the desirability of using force to disarm Iraq and engineer a regime change in Baghdad. Indeed, it seems unlikely today that the US would get a majority of the members of the UN security council to support a fresh resolution authorizing the use of military force against Iraq. Three of the permanent members of the UN security council, Russia, China and France, have categorically voiced their opposition to a fresh resolution. These countries may veto a US inspired resolution even if Washington is able to convince the non-permanent members of the desirability of using force, which too seems unlikely to happen. But opposition abroad, and growing scepticism even domestically is unlikely to deter the Republican administration from executing its plans. At a recent prime time press conference, the US president, Mr George W. Bush, asserted that he would not leave the American people at the mercy of the Iraqi dictator and his weapons. He also categorically stated that on issues related to the US’s national security, Washington would act even if it did not get UN approval.

The Bush administration is clearly more determined than ever before to ensure that it achieves success in Iraq. And success, it must be clear, is not measured merely in terms of achieving Iraqi compliance with UN security council resolution 1441. The real aim is to ensure a regime change in Iraq, and even engineer larger political changes in west Asia. It is this suspicion of larger American ambitions that is fuelling the engine of protest even amongst the countries that have no love lost for Mr Saddam Hussein.

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