Bush’s speech, in which he called for the support of the UN but warned that the US was prepared to take unilateral action against Iraq, came after UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan told the same audience that there was ‘no substitute for the unique legitimacy provided by the United Nations’. Annan acknowledged that Baghdad had not complied with UN resolutions, but stressed the need for multilateral action not only on Iraq, but on other issues such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the conflicts in Afghanistan and Kashmir.

‘Only concerted vigilance and co-operation among all states, with constant, systematic exchange of information, offers any real hope of denying terrorists their opportunities,’ said Annan. ‘Choosing to follow or reject the multilateral path must not be a simple matter of political convenience. It has consequences far beyond the immediate context.’

Former president of South Africa Nelson Mandela added his voice to those opposing military action in the Gulf. ‘We are really appalled by any country, whether a superpower or a small country, that goes outside the UN and attacks independent countries,’ he said on 11 September after a telephone call to former president Bush. ‘What they are saying is introducing chaos in international affairs, and we condemn that in the strongest terms.’