Trouble at the Palace

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BAGHDAD: Not another Iraq-U.S. standoff? The two nations traded harsh words over allowing U.N. weapons inspectors to search presidential palaces. While some 75 UNSCOM monitors and a U-2 continued unimpeded in their hunt for chemical and biological weapons Monday, Iraq is continuing to withhold access to 63 possible weapons sites including Saddam Hussein's 47 presidential compounds.

Iraqi officials claim logically, some might say that such a move would be like letting the U.N. root around at the White House. Nonsense, replies Washington, Saddam is stalling. As before, the truth depends on whether you believe that Saddam's decision to allow the inspectors to return was, in the words of Defense Secretary William Cohen, "a change of heart or a change of tactics."

With Cohen and his boss believing the latter, any hope of an early end to sanctions as per last week's Russian-brokered deal disappears faster than you can say "veto." And Saddam is not likely to take such a setback lying down.