Today's Story Line:

Several of today's stories look at exit strategies and endgames.

Iraq's President Saddam Hussein is slowly undermining the UN embargo, but the new US president may have other ideas (page 1). Russian President Vladimir Putin may be borrowing a page from the US book on Vietnam as he tries to extricate his forces from Chechnya (page 7). Some players in the Congo war see Laurent Kabila's death as a window for peace (this page).

- David Clark Scott World editor


A CAR MEANS INCOME: The Monitor's Cameron Barr expected Baghdad to be clogged with new cars. He'd read that the UN trade embargo had become quite porous. But most vehicles on Iraqi roads are at least 10 years old - and show it. Cameron's driver, however, couldn't mask his pride in the superb condition of his Toyota sedan and defied our correspondent to guess its age. "It could be 10 years old," Cameron ventured. The driver was crestfallen. Cameron was right. Later, Cameron learned why the Toyota is so well maintained. Several years ago, the driver sold his house to buy the car. By ferrying hotel guests around Baghdad, he can earn in one day several times what he used to make as a teacher in a month. "Sometimes I don't respect myself," says the driver, but with two children he says there was little choice.

RENT A SOLDIER: After the funeral service for Laurent Kabila, reporter Danna Harman found the exit blocked by angry crowds. There were rumors circulating that Kabila's assassin had fled to a French or Belgian diplomat's home. So, all white foreigners were being accosted at the entry gate. "It was the first time that I felt uncomfortable here," Danna says. She turned to some Angolan and Zimbabwean soldiers and asked for help. "I paid them a little money and they happily escorted me out a back way, across a field to a waiting van and drove me to my hotel."

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