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Iraqi Defiance Narrows U.N.'s Options in New Crisis Situation

By John M. Goshko
The Washington Post

Iraq's latest defiance of the Security Council has put the United Nations and President Saddam Hussein's regime on a collision course that U.N. diplomats fear will once again force the world body to consider countering Baghdad's challenge with the threat of force.

That was the predominant view here Monday after Iraq's decision Saturday to halt all cooperation with U.N. weapons inspectors and demand the immediate lifting of the economic sanctions imposed on it by the council during the 199091 Persian Gulf War.

Although Baghdad insisted it was not seeking a confrontation, its action was denounced by the 15-member council as "a flagrant violation" of its orders. And, it immediately caused the United States - Saddam Hussein's most unrelenting foe - to warn that it might resort anew to threats of a military strike, either with the council's backing or on its own.

However, diplomatic sources here said that it probably will take a while, perhaps two weeks or more, before the situation reaches a military confrontation. As past confrontations between the United Nations and Iraq have shown, there is a diplomatic ritual that will have to be played out first.

That will begin Tuesday, when the council begins discussion of turning its statement of Saturday, which demanded that Iraq rescind its decision "immediately and unconditionally," into a formal resolution as a springboard for further action. The sources said that could take until the end of the week, and then, they added, the council would have to start considering what that action should be.

Some diplomats here already have started suggesting that Secretary General Kofi A. Annan SM '72 should be dispatched to Baghdad in hopes that he could repeat his success of last February, when Iraq had barred inspectors from entering certain suspected weapons sites. At that time, he averted an imminent U.S. military attack by working out a compromise reaffirming U.N. rights to conduct inspections under the terms of the 1991 cease-fire that ended the Persian Gulf War.