Diplomacy - at the UN:

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New York - A White House official told TIME that Russian President Vladimir Putin has assured President George W. Bush he wouldn't cast a veto, with the U.S. bringing a second resolution to a vote at the UN Security Counsel this week.

"There were rumors that the Russians were going to veto," says the official. "The President had a conversation and got a different impression-not that Putin was with him, but that he?s not going to veto."

Story online at: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1101030317-430650,00.html

"Only a miracle-a complete change of heart, a coup, a journey to exile-can stop a war now," writes TIME's Romesh Ratnesar.

As it tries to line up votes for a last-chance U.N. resolution, the U.S. is already discussing the prospect of U.N. involvement in a post-Saddam Iraq, according to TIME. "The United States will come to the U.N. for reconstruction help," says a senior U.N. diplomat, "and they'll get it."

Aides close to Bush say the President has decided to confront Saddam now, with any partners he can get. "Since many Americans also prefer to have the U.N.'s approval for a war against Iraq, the quest for nine votes has become a political priority for Bush. And so the President worked the phones all week, according to TIME. The White House denied to TIME that the U.S. offered any incentives to indecisive states, but the members weren?t so hesitant. "We're keeping our options open," says a diplomat from one swing country. "It's a tantalizing situation now."

TIME also reports:

--Powell behind-the-scenes: At a closed-doors lunch after Friday's meeting with the U.N.'s chief weapons inspectors, Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei, Powell made an emotional last appeal for support, telling the other ministers that the U.S. would never have come to the U.N. to begin with if it were hell-bent on war. Powell's speech may have softened the hearts of wavering member states: one U.N. ambassador at the lunch told TIME Powell's speech "inspirational."

--U.S. trashing inspectors assessments: Secretary of State Colin Powell could barely contain his exasperation with the inspectors' upbeat assessments. Privately, TIME reports, his aides trashed them-"Pathetically unaggressive, amateurish and believing everything the Iraqis tell them," a senior State Department official said-and claimed that the inspectors are ignoring tips from U.S. intelligence and capitulating to Iraqi intimidation. Inspectors vehemently deny the charges. # # #