All papers lead with the narrowly aborted U.S. attack on Iraq. Just hours before the U.S. was to launch a massive air strike campaign (at 9 a.m. EST Saturday, the Washington Post reports), Iraq in a letter to the U.N. signaled its willingness to let U.N. weapons inspectors return. After reviewing the overture, however, the U.S. called Iraq's conditional concessions "unacceptable" and remains poised to attack.
The letter, sent early Saturday by Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, said that Iraq would let the weapons inspectors return, apparently unconditionally. Annan spoke with Aziz over the phone and seemed convinced of Iraq's sincerity. However, a later annex sent by Aziz laid out several conditions for the resumption of weapons inspections--including the lifting of the oil embargo on Iraq. Dubious, National Security Adviser Sandy Berger said Iraq's proposal had "more holes than Swiss cheese." President Clinton canceled the first leg of his Asia trip (which he was secretly planning to do anyway, according to the WP) and sent Vice President Gore to Malaysia instead.
The papers note that the U.S. is now in a tricky situation, with huge forces amassed in the Gulf and Iraq stalling. The New York Times says advisors told Clinton to order the attacks earlier in the week to avoid precisely such a situation. All papers also note that Saddam Hussein has successfully weakened Clinton's international support; says the Los Angeles Times, "the wily dictator has lost none of his tactical cunning." Russia has now voiced its aversion to the use of force, and the U.N. Security Counsel is divided over the sincerity of Saddam's latest proposal. The U.N.S.C. and the U.S. are now at odds over what the "annex" says; while the U.S. will not tolerate the conditional annex, Kofi Annan's spokesman, Fred Eckhard, has said that the annex "does not constitute conditions." Britain still strongly backs the U.S. position.
A New York Times op-ed by Richard Danzig, the soon-to-be-sworn-in Secretary of the Navy, outlines possible defense strategies against "NEW"--nonexplosive weapons, such as biological agents or computer viruses. Declaring that "we ought to assume that successful attacks should occur," Danzig proposes various response strategies such as "educating medical personnel, preparing responsive plans and stockpiling antibiotics." Also on Danzig's wish list: "giving our computer systems redundancy" so that the effects of a computer attack are mitigated.
The NYT off-lead chronicles the myriad ways that AIDS cripples Africa's businesses. AIDS health care costs huge amounts (even with health benefits caps); young people who could be promoted are dying; the supply of workers and specialists is depleted; and in some hard-hit areas, government agencies are downsizing because they anticipate a lack of personnel.
In an inside article charmingly entitled "Paris Finally Gets the Poop," the WP reports that Paris is becoming a sanctuary of "dog toilet enclosures"--and dogs are actually using them. In case dogs miss, "moto turds" sweep through for pickup. Paris' citizens (encouraged by a hefty fine for messy dogs) are also getting their scoops out--a rare example, says the article, of civic activism in Europe.