Saddam Preparing to Back Off?

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So it was all just a big misunderstanding.... Saddam Hussein on Friday began feeling his way toward an exit, saying he would accept "positively any initiative" toward the lifting of sanctions and that he created the crisis "to get responses to Iraq's legal demands." The way for Baghdad to back down, says TIME U.N. correspondent William Dowell, is simply to say it misunderstood the meaning of a U.N. Security Council letter two weeks ago. The current showdown began after reference to a "comprehensive review" of sanctions was deleted from the letter at U.S. insistence. "Iraq took that to mean the U.S. would never allow the lifting of sanctions, which is why it ended cooperation with UNSCOM," says Dowell. "So the way out for Iraq is to say it misunderstood the meaning of the omission, accept the reassurance that sanctions will end once it fulfills arms-control requirements, and allow UNSCOM to resume."

Special Report That scenario, of course, leaves the U.S. in a difficult position. "We've said Saddam can avoid bombings by backing down publicly and following up with actions," says TIME correspondent Douglas Waller. "The quandary if he does is whether to believe him."