Fresh Bickering Over the Iraq Deal

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The Iraq crisis just won’t go away -- at least, not while all the main players are jockeying to define the terms of the current, uneasy truce. In an angry exchange between Richard Butler, Chief Weapons Inspector, and Iraqi Ambassador Nizar Hamdoon on CNN Sunday, the Annan accord began to unravel. Hamdoon saw some sort of time limit on weapons inspections in last week’s deal: “It depends on how you see it ... I think that all the understanding was it should be in a reasonable time,” said the ambassador. “Actually, it doesn’t depend on how you see it,” an angry Butler shot back. “It’s unambiguous.”

The architect of that much-disputed pact, Kofi Annan, spent his moment in the media sun lashing out at Congress. “They probably don’t have all the facts,” Annan told TIME in an exclusive interview. “I don’t really know what is driving the statements coming out of Washington.” Annan cancelled his trip to the Capitol in part because Trent Lott refused to see him, according to USA Today. "The environment in Washington was less welcoming than one might have wished," said Annan’s deputy, John Ruggie.

He has a point: Senators on both sides are starting to bay for Saddam’s blood. Three of them made separate calls on the Sunday talk shows for the U.S. to reverse an eight-year policy of containment and “take out” the Iraqi leader. “We would certainly be within our rights,” claimed Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa) on CBS. When Senators show so little knowledge of realpolitick, the Secretary General can be forgiven a deep sigh.