International opposition to the US launching a military campaign to overthrow the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is mounting as Washington edges close to a final decision on whether to proceed with the war option.
All six of the GCC states have expressed their anxiety about the prospect of a war against Iraq, and Saudi Arabia made clear on 7 August that under no circumstances would it allow any of its territory or air space to be used for an attack on Iraq. Among European leaders, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has come out most forcefully against the US going to war, and serious reservations about the prospect of military action have been aired extensively in the UK, looked on by Washington as a key potential ally in the anti-Saddam enterprise.
US President Bush on 7 August sought to play down speculation that the key decisions about whether to go to war, and with what means, have effectively been taken already. 'I will explore all options and tools at my disposal: diplomacy, international pressure, perhaps the military,' he said. 'But it's important for my fellow citizens to know that as we see threats evolving we will deal with them.' He added that he would consult Congress before proceeding with the military option.
Iraq is trying to ward off a US attack by seeking to negotiate terms for the return of UN inspectors. However, an Iraqi proposal for UN inspection chief Hans Blix to visit Baghdad for talks on the issue has not yet been accepted. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said on 6 August that more clarification was needed on the basis of the proposed visit. Iraq has said it is prepared to let the inspectors back, but only after it has received satisfactory answers to 19 questions it has posed relating to the terms for the eventual lifting of sanctions according to the 1999 UN Security Council resolution that provides for the resumed inspections. The US has indicated that it will continue to prosecute its campaign to overthrow Saddam Hussein even if the inspectors return.
The Iraqi leader on 8 August gave a defiant televised address on the occasion of the 14th anniversary of the end of the Iran-Iraq war. However, in among the rhetorical flourishes about the certainty of the defeat of any aggressor, he said that the right way to achieve peace and security for all is through equitable dialogue on the basis of international law. 'The right way is that the Security Council should reply to the questions raised by Iraq, and should honour its obligations under its own resolutions,' he said.