MONDAY: Clinton's 'Dear Kofi' Letter

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UNITED NATIONS: It was in Clinton's eyes and voice, and in the way he spoke to the U.N. Assembly: It's not that I'm leaving you, exactly. I just need some space. "All the rhetoric about reform is just a big bag of nothing," says TIME's New York bureau chief Marguerite Michaels. "The U.S. looks ready to crawl under its desk at the U.N. and just stop caring."

It's not just the money. Or the inefficiency. It's that most U.S. policy makers would rather go it alone. Jesse Helms would rather keep the $819 million maintenance being promised to the international body, but he'll probably let it go for just two of the attatched list of demands: a U.S. assessment reduction from 25 to 20 percent, and the General Assembly passing Kofi Annan's proposed reform plan.

But that's not a given. Unlike the Security Council, the Assembly has a noisy multitude of countries on whom Washington’s glowering has little effect. "In the 1970s, the U.N. was essentially paralyzed by Cold War stalemates," Michaels says. "The Security Council did nothing, and it was the Third World countries who squawked while the U.S. hid." Those days may be coming again.