Momentum is building for possible war with Iraq after years of failed diplomacy and ineffectual economic sanctions, US Defence Secretary Mr Donald Rumsfeld said today at the start of a brief European tour.
Seeking to build consensus across Europe for a possible attack on Iraq, Mr Rumsfeld said a pre-emptive strike to deprive Iraqi President Saddam Hussein of weapons of mass destruction might save thousands of lives in the long term.
"The world feels a sense of momentum. It's been a long road, 12 years long. We've seen enormous efforts by the international community of a diplomatic nature that have failed," Mr Rumsfeld said after meeting Italian Prime Minister Mr Silvio Berlusconi.
"Not only did those fail, economic sanctions and limited military action have also failed to get him to co-operate. The patience of the world is nearing its end" he said.
Mr Rumsfeld said he appreciated concerns over the use of force but said the September 11th attacks had torn up the old security rule book.
"The risk of not acting may be vastly greater than the risk of acting," he told a news conference.
Chief UN arms inspector Dr Hans Blix said in Vienna on Friday Iraq appeared to be co-operating with UN teams in the country hunting banned weapons but that it had to do more.
Dr Blix travels to Baghdad at the weekend with Mr Mohamed El Baradei, the head of the UN's nuclear watchdog agency, before they present their next report to the Security Council on February 14th.