MONDAY: The Great Gulf Lockout

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BAGHDAD: They keep on knocking but they can't come in. Monday, for the third time in a week, those wacky Iraqis turned away U.N. weapons inspection teams - for the simple crime of including Americans. The Iraqis have yet to explain precisely why being American should impair an inspector’s ability to monitor the dismantling of weapons of mass destruction, in compliance with the Gulf War cease-fire agreement.

Still, Saddam Hussein seems prepared to use this as a bargaining chip to try to force negotiations over U.N. sanctions. According to Iraqi radio Monday, he called the inspections "silly and provocative."

What's he got to hide? Chief U.N. weapons inspector Richard Butler says his team was "getting closer and closer" to discovering extremely deadly nerve gas agents — the American inspectors' area of expertise.

Far from being mere nationalistic posturing, then, Saddam's move seems be motivated by fear of what the Yankee experts might find. But he's playing a dangerous game: despite his talk of negotiation, Security Council nations are inching closer to retaliatory action.