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Monday, 26 November, 2001, 19:32 GMT
Bush warns Iraq over UN inspectors
UN weapon inspectors in Baghdad, Iraq in 1998
Iraq set tough conditions for the return of UN inspectors
Roger Hardy

President George W Bush has renewed American pressure on the Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to allow UN inspectors back into his country to monitor whether he's building weapons of mass destruction.

Mr Bush said the UN needed to find out if Iraq was still developing weapons of mass destruction.


As for Mr Saddam Hussein, he needs to let inspectors back in his country to show us that he is not developing weapons of mass destruction

President Bush
The weapons inspectors left the country three years ago and have not been allowed back.

President Bush's remarks are likely to keep alive speculation that Iraq could be the next target in his war against terrorism.

Questioned by journalists over what America would do if Iraq did not allow inspectors back, Mr Bush replied that Saddam Hussein would find out.

Russian influence

The signs are that the administration has not yet made up its mind.

It is no secret that there are some influential hawks who want action to topple Saddam Hussein from power - regardless of whether he is implicated in the attacks of 11 September.

But for the moment, policy in the Middle East is in the hands of Colin Powell, the US secretary of state - and Mr Powell is well aware that precipitate action on Iraq would damage his already slim prospects for reviving the Arab-Israeli peace process.

Another complication is that the administration is not anxious to pick a quarrel with Russia, which favours a more lenient approach to Iraq.

Baghdad street scene
The US has not made its mind up about Baghdad

Russia has so far blocked efforts by the US and Britain to change the focus of UN sanctions against Iraq so as to increase their impact on the regime and reduce the suffering of Iraqi civilians.

To keep the Russians sweet, the existing sanctions regime is likely to be extended for a further six months when the current phase runs out on Friday.

In the meantime, it looks as if the Bush administration is trying to keep up the psychological pressure on Saddam Hussein while it works out what its longer-term policy should be.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Richard Lister in Washington
"Outside the US there is no support for another Gulf War"
The BBC's Mike Donkin
"The next US target may have been chosen"
See also:

22 Nov 01 | Middle East
Iraq fears US military attacks
12 Nov 01 | Middle East
Iraq fires mortar into Kuwait
07 Nov 01 | Middle East
Iraq 'smart sanctions' postponed
06 Nov 01 | Business
Iraq's trade fair gets underway
30 Oct 01 | Middle East
Iraq condemns US 'aggression'
28 Oct 01 | Middle East
Rumsfeld: Iraq may be target
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