Iraq Remains on the Radar Screen

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The cat-and-mouse waiting game in Iraq continues. At a press briefing on Friday Secretary of State Madeleine Albright made it clear that "the military option remains on the table" if Saddam Hussein continues to impede U.N. weapons investigators. "Don't be too lulled by the holidays," says TIME U.N. Correspondent William Dowell. "The next week and a half will be tense.Expect an uptick in inspections."

The U.S. is waiting for either a clear incident or a clear pattern of non-cooperation. "There is no indication of a massive U.S. attack at the moment," says Dowell, "but a surgical air strike could occur at any time if it were warranted." If the U.S. were to push the button the most likely targets would be Iraqi communications and military units. The real source of contention -- biological weapons lab -- would probably not be hit. "The equipment in such labs is dual purpose," says Dowell. "Unless the facilities are turned around for military use, they are used to produce harmless civilian products." A surprise bombing raid on such a lab would destroy nothing but might kill innocent people. All of which renders the waiting game frustrating. The cat may not be able to eliminate the mouse in the end.