Iraq Resolution: Pulling Teeth

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NEW YORK: Squabbles over diplo-speak and "automaticity" are quickly diluting a U.S.-backed resolution to punish Iraq if Saddam breaks last week's deal with Kofi Annan.

Focus: Iraq Despite the seeming clarity of an agreement that promises "unfettered" access to all suspected sites, permanent members Russia, China and France are insisting that the entire Security Council have a say in not only the kind of punishment Hussein would receive for violations, but in deciding whether or not Saddam is in violation at all. Conciliatory edits offered by Britain -- changing "severest consequences" to "very severe" and removing an explicit reference to a 1991 resolution that threatened force -- failed to convice the holdouts.

The U.S. had hoped Annan's deal had laid the foundations for an ultimatum to Saddam. But in the hands of the Security Council, that "credible military threat" is quickly turning into a joke.