Speaking at a Republican party function, Bush said the UN would become an irrelevance if it did not uphold its resolutions on Iraq. ‘The choice is theirs. But if they choose not to, for the sake of our future we will not let the world’s worst leader threaten us, blackmail us, or hurt us with the world’s worst weapons.’

US Secretary of State Colin Powell also raised the spectre of unilateral American action against Iraq. ‘Inspectors must be able to go into Iraq under a new resolution. They must be able to go any place, at any time,’ he said on 23 September. ‘If the UN fails to act, you cannot expect us to ignore that failure if we feel that we are still being threatened.’

Although British officials indicated that Russia, France and China could be persuaded to back a new resolution, the three countries continued to show reluctance to support military action. ‘I don’t believe that war is unavoidable,’ President Chirac of France said on 23 September. ‘I still think it’s the worst solution, and we should do everything to agree the only solution – that Iraq accepts unconditionally the return of inspectors.’

Despite the fierce debate on Iraq that continued in the US Senate in the run-up to mid-term elections, the White House’s rhetorical campaign was given an added boost by the publication on 24 September of a UK government dossier on the Iraqi weapons programme. Iraqi Culture Minister Naji Sabri predictably panned the document, saying it ‘aims to justify the.unjustifiable aggressive intentions against Iraq’. However, some of the US’ closest military allies also claimed the dossier contained little new evidence of an alleged Iraqi threat. Israeli government spokesman Avi Pazner said it was ‘not new for us, it is no surprise’.