No one has ever accused US President George W. Bush of possessing a silver tongue. One of the more colourful aspects of his diplomacy is that whenever he says something apparently new, the world is left wondering whether he really means what he said or merely tripped over his words. His statement hinting that Saddam Hussein may somehow be able to survive what has looked like an increasingly inevitable conflict does not appear to be a gaffe. Yet he still has people scratching their heads. For months he has courted international anger by repeatedly declaring a policy of 'regime change' towards Iraq. The message has been all too clear: Mr Hussein has got to go. The imperative has appeared so overriding as to prompt fears the Bush team would still roll into Baghdad even if Iraq started to co-operate with the United Nations. On Monday Mr Bush added a verbal twist. Pledging to give diplomacy 'one more time' to 'peacefully' disarm Iraq, he said: 'It would signal that the regime had changed.' The next days and weeks will indicate just how sincere were Mr Bush's words. Certainly, the fact the UN Security Council is about to debate a fresh resolution paving the way for possible conflict may have prodded Washington to suddenly start sounding reasonable. He may have also been caught out by the Bali attacks and the diplomacy following the North Korean nuclear revelations, both of which have raised questions over his Iraq approach. But is it fresh policy? Don't bet on it. His leading spokesmen have been insisting that nothing has changed; they generally avoid explicit talk of war, instead urging Mr Hussein to comply or take the consequences. Washington insiders suggest senior Bush officials have already calculated that there is no way Mr Hussein will ever completely fulfil international requirements on weapons inspections. Even the smallest obstruction looms as a potential excuse to declare war. It should also be remembered that Mr Bush has already set the bar high for Baghdad to avoid conflict. When he spoke before the UN General Assembly in September, he added internationally accepted elections to the list. Mr Bush and his hawks want a new Iraq without Saddam Hussein. His statement this week may have merely given him an extra tool to bring about that end.