Nations opposed to United States plans to extend its war on terrorism to Iraq are strengthening ties with Baghdad. But American analysts say the US will push ahead regardless of international opinion, although probably not until next year. United Nations sanctions imposed after oil-rich Iraq's invasion of neighbouring Kuwait in 1990 have been relaxed under a food-for-oil programme. It was under this that an Indian delegation to Baghdad on Sunday signed a co-operation agreement allowing for the right to explore and drill for oil in Iraq's southern Tuba field in return for supplying medicine, wheat, rice, railway equipment and turbines for electricity generation. India followed Muslim countries in Asia, Arab nations, and the European Union in striking or strengthening economic ties with Iraq as a way of initiating dialogue. US President George W. Bush tried unsuccessfully to win support from European nations during visits in May. On Monday he said the US would use all tools at its disposal to oust Iraq's President Saddam Hussein, who has stayed in power despite the 1991 Gulf War and American military and diplomatic pressure. Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz said yesterday in Pretoria, at the end of a six-day visit to South Africa to firm up relations, that Iraq was an independent country ready to defend itself against aggression. Mr Bush accuses Iraq, Iran and North Korea of forming an 'axis of evil'. He accuses them of producing weapons of mass destruction. Saddam denies the claim but refuses to allow UN weapons inspections. Baghdad's new ambassador to Australia, Saad al-Salarai, said countries were co-operating with Iraq because the US position was abnormal. 'We want dialogue but from the other side, there is only army dialogue,' he said. 'It's not normal. We are a country seeking peace to make our people happy.' Dr Salarai called the US allegations 'a big lie' and said the underlying reason for the US stance was oil. Iraq's strategic position, in addition to its oil and gas fields, was behind its growing ties with South Asia, said A. K. Basha, a professor in international relations at Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are rekindling relations that had been strong before the sanctions. 'At the moment, India is not dependent on Iraq for oil, but in the long term, the government sees it as a potentially promising market for its requirements,' Dr Basha said. He said India believed military action had to be first approved by the UN and could not be carried out unilaterally. At their annual summit in Beirut in May, Arab nations backed Iraq. But Jordan, sandwiched between Iraq and Israel and with ties to the US, is in a difficult position. Jordan University political science professor Abdullah Magresh said although the US had a military co-operation agreement with his country, it would not help against Iraq. 'Jordan will not allow other nations to stage an attack from its land because of the relationship between Jordan and Iraq,' he said. European nations last month offered economic relations to Iraq as an incentive to mediation. Europeans were also wary because the war in Afghanistan was still unresolved, said the director of Oxford University's Middle East programme, Eugene Rogan. 'The prospect for real harm is far greater, so Asian and European powers alike are trying to exercise some brake on America's insistence on pursuing a military policy,' he said. Dr Rogan, an American, agreed with Judith Kipper, the Middle East programme director at the Washington-based Centre for Strategic and International Studies, that the US was sincere in its efforts to topple Saddam. But Professor Kipper said this would probably not happen until next year because of planning, the availability of funds, and military unpreparedness due to the war in Afghanistan.