Bush on 8 July reiterated his commitment to ‘regime change’ and emphasised that he is personally involved in the planning to achieve this aim. ‘I’m involved in the military plan, diplomatic planning, financial planning – all aspects of reviewing the tools at our disposal,’ he said.

The USA Today on 11 July quoted officials at the Defence Department, State Department and other agencies as saying that the national security team had concluded that a major operation would not be feasible unless Saddam Hussein took some drastic action such as invasion of a neighbouring country, fielding weapons of mass destruction or mounting a big offensive against the Kurds.

USA Today had earlier conducted a survey of leading Republican and Democratic congressmen which had shown scant support for a big military operation against Iraq.

Analysts say the fresh political crisis in Turkey, whose co-operation would be vital in any such operation, has posed additional problems for the anti-Saddam campaign.

Talks in Vienna between the UN and Iraq over the possibility of Baghdad readmitting weapons inspectors broke down on 6 July without agreement.