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Tuesday, 18 December, 2001, 13:31 GMT
US builds support against Iraq
Fighter planes on deck of USS Washington
The US feels it has unfinished business with Iraq
Roger Hardy

After their success in Afghanistan, senior US officials believe they now have more support for toppling the Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

There is a distinct hardening of the American attitude towards Iraq.

.At the same time, US officials say they are seeing the first signs of a change of heart by Turkey and at least some of the Arab states - countries which have previously opposed military action to topple Saddam Hussein.

According to the New York Times, Turkey has said the US could use its bases in such an operation - and the paper says a prominent Arab ambassador in Washington has reversed his view that targeting Iraq would be a disaster.

The Americans would undoubtedly need the co-operation of neighbouring states if they did decide on a serious attempt to change the Baghdad regime.

Public caution

But it is highly unlikely that crucial neighbours such as Turkey and Saudi Arabia would give their public blessing to such a move, whatever they may be saying in private.

Turkish flag over oil pipeline
Turkey is a key US ally in the region
They are well aware of the new confidence in Washington following American success in Afghanistan, but they also know that attacking Iraq would be highly controversial throughout the Muslim world.

Russia and the European Union have also made their opposition clear, suggesting that if the Americans went ahead, they would essentially be abandoning the multilateralism of their foreign policy during the last few months.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Barham Salih
The visit was an important reminder
Hoshyar Zebari
Any talk of attacking Iraq is premature
See also:

11 Dec 01 | Middle East
US officials meet Iraqi Kurds
08 Nov 01 | Middle East
Powell says Iraq may be next target
28 Nov 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Iraq
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