U.N. to Saddam: We Have a Deal

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NEW YORK: The Security Council formally promised "severest consequences" for Iraq if it breaks its deal with Kofi Annan. But Saddam Hussein can take comfort in the fact that the U.N. is no closer to deciding exactly what those consequences might be.

"The passing of this resolution in no way means that the Security Council automatically authorizes any state to use force against Iraq," insisted China's U.N. ambassador, Qin Huasun, after the vote. Envoys from France, Russia and a host of other countries made it clear that only the Security Council can judge Iraq's compliance with the accord -- or determine what punishment can be undertaken.

Focus: Iraq

After haggling over language long into Monday evening, the U.S. tried to sound upbeat about the toothless resolution. U.N. ambassador Bill Richardson called it a "victory for the United States." President Clinton declared that "tonight's unanimous vote of the United Nations Security Council sends the clearest possible message: Iraq must make good on its commitment."

Sounds awfully like 1992 all over again. But with support for a military strike almost undetectable either at home or abroad, those U.N. handcuffs shouldn't chafe President Clinton overmuch. And when those U.S. warships in the Gulf recede and Saddam gets up to his old tricks, the council may wish it had left Clinton something to bluff with.