Magazine article The Middle East

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Magazine article The Middle East

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Only when it appeared war was just around the corner, did Saddam Hussein announce he would allow UN weapons inspectors back into Iraq, thus pre-empting an attack by the US. But, make no mistake, war remains just around the corner unless the international community takes concerted action to prevent it.

Iraq has been accused of prevaricating, of stalling for time. Hardly surprising; President Bush has been striding the world stage for weeks, posturing and tub thumping about the need for the US to storm Baghdad and save the world. He is beginning to scare his friends, never mind his enemies. Although the "unconditional" offer presented to the UN was dismissed as "a tactic" by the White House, it served to relieve some of the pressure that had built up in the international community, providing an opportunity to take another look at the situation.

Cracks quickly began to show in the US attempts to build an international coalition. British Prime Minister Tony Blair, predictably, shared the opinion of George Bush that Saddam's move had been purely tactical. France and Russia promptly questioned the need for the UN to pass a resolution setting a deadline for Iraq to comply with existing rules. Other countries too, which had previously been reluctant to back a war against Saddam Hussein, seized the opportunity to claim the crisis was all but over. No such luck. Saddam will scheme, plot and manoeuvre for all he is worth for as long as he is allowed to do so. He is a skilled manipulator of people and situations; a skill which has ensured he remains in power in Baghdad though most of his political adversaries have been sidelined or put out to pasture. George Bush Snr, Margaret Thatcher, John Major all languish in the political wilderness but not Saddam.

Baghdad launched a propaganda offensive intended to widen any splits in the 15-member UN Security Council charged with studying the Iraqi offer. …

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