Saddam Puts the Blocks Back On

  • Share
  • Read Later
NEW YORK: Now that the showdown in Iraq appeared to have faded from the headlines, Saddam goes and interferes with another U.N. arms inspection team. But, says TIME correspondent William Dowell, don't expect any fireworks just yet.

Baghdad objects to the work of the team headed by American Scott Ritter, and has fomented a new crisis by withdrawing his right to undertake any activities in the country. Says Dowell: "The Iraqis suspect Ritter may have been trying to build up a case for entering one of the sensitive 'presidential' sites to which Baghdad has denied access. Although the U.N. maintains that Iraq has no right to determine the composition of the U.N. team, there's not likely to be any strong response during the holy month of Ramadan."

Iraq may indeed be playing for time: UNSCOM chief Richard Butler's contract comes up for renewal in July, and Baghdad would dearly like its sympathizers in the Security Council to push for the combative Australian to be replaced. Unlikely as that may be, it may spur Butler into completing his mission before then. U.N. officials believe the current impasse will be resolved by mid-year either through Iraq granting UNSCOM unfettered access, or through some form of retaliation by the West to force the issue.