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Wednesday, 13 February, 2002, 14:16 GMT
Analysis: US to get tough on Iraq
Iraqi military parade
The US is looking at options for a "regime change"
Roger Hardy

The US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, has been speaking about the three countries - Iraq, Iran and North Korea - which President George W Bush has described as an "axis of evil".

Speaking before a Senate committee, Mr Powell said there were no plans to start a war against Iran or North Korea.

But with regard to Iraq, the administration was looking at various options to bring about what he called "regime change".

US Secretary of State Colin Powell
Powell has been considered cautious on Iraq
The signs are that the administration has now made up its mind that the Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein has to go.

Colin Powell - long considered more cautious than the Pentagon on this issue - is making it clear that he accepts the new and tougher line.

There will be a two-track approach. Efforts to give UN sanctions against Iraq a new and sharper focus will continue.

At the same time the ground will be prepared for possible military action - and it is clear that could take several months.

International reservations

The Pentagon has to resolve some difficult issues - how far to rely on the Iraqi opposition-in-exile, whether to commit large numbers of ground troops and whether it can rely on logistical help from Iraq's neighbours.

Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein
Iraq is among the three countries Bush called an "axis of evil"
Vice-President Dick Cheney's visit to the Middle East next month seems largely designed to sound out regional support.

The Americans face serious reservations from their Arab allies, from Turkey and from the European Union.

The German foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, clearly had Iraq - as well as other issues - in mind when he warned the Americans on Tuesday not to treat their allies like satellites.

The European view is that there is no international mandate for military action against Iraq.

But Colin Powell made it clear last week that the United States was ready, if need be, to act alone.

See also:

06 Feb 02 | Americas
Powell steps up Iraq war talk
05 Feb 02 | Middle East
Powell 'rejects' Iraq talks
05 Feb 02 | Middle East
UN says Iraq ready for talks
17 Jan 02 | Americas
Bush warns Iraq over arms
18 Dec 01 | Middle East
US builds support against Iraq
28 Oct 01 | Middle East
Rumsfeld: Iraq may be target
06 Feb 02 | Americas
Analysis: The 'axis of evil' debate
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