WASHINGTON - The 10th anniversary of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait passed with the Clinton administration admitting that many U.S. goals remain unfulfilled, including the ouster of President Saddam Hussein.
Nevertheless, the State Department said Wednesday, Iraq is far weaker militarily than it was.
''A decade has now lapsed with Saddam unable to invade a neighbor. That fact alone marks an important success for the international community,'' said David Welch, who heads the State Department's international organizations bureau.
Welch conceded that the February 1991 liberation of Kuwait by a U.S.-led coalition was not the final chapter of the Iraq saga.
Saddam has not given up his weapons of mass destruction and continues abusive practices, Welch said.
''It's not over for some 600 Kuwaiti missing persons and POWs seized by Iraqi forces in Kuwait,'' he said. ''Nor is it over for the people of Iraq who continue to suffer the brutal misrule of the Saddam Hussein regime.''
Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon said Wednesday the United States spends well over $1 billion a year patrolling Iraq with jet fighters to keep Iraqi warplanes grounded. Also, to deter future Iraqi adventurism, the United States maintains 24,000 troops on station in the Persian Gulf region.
David Scheffer, U.S. ambassador-at-large for war crimes who joined Welch at a news conference, renewed the administration's wish that a war crimes tribunal be established for Iraq.
Scheffer said the administration is collecting evidence to hold Saddam and top aides accountable for two decades of crimes against Iraqis and the people of the countries Iraqi forces have invaded, Kuwait and Iran.
''He must be brought to account for his crimes,'' Scheffer said.
The administration has had little to say about Saddam's efforts to reconstitute weapons of mass destruction since Iraq expelled U.N. weapons inspectors in December 1998.
Richard Butler, former chairman of the defunct U.S. weapons inspection agency, says Saddam has not been sitting on his hands.
Saddam, Butler wrote in The Washington Post, is ''manufacturing the weapons of mass destruction with which he threatens the Iraqi people, his neighbors and, by extension, the safety of the world.''
The United Nations is to try and send new inspectors soon. But because Iraq remains under sanctions for ignoring terms of the cease-fire, Saddam is not expected to cooperate.
That the Iraq agenda remains unfinished after 10 years is duly noted in the Republican presidential campaign platform.
''Perhaps nowhere has the inheritance of Republican governance been squandered so fatefully as with respect to Iraq,'' the GOP platform plank on Iraq says. ''The anti-Iraq coalition assembled to oppose Saddam Hussein has disintegrated.'' It adds that the administration has only ''pretended'' to support the removal of Saddam Hussein from power.
Some critics argue that the problems could have been avoided if former President Bush had not called off the Desert Storm operation without removing Saddam by force if necessary.
Congress has appropriated $97 million for use by anti-Saddam Iraqis to oust his regime. Some opposition leaders have complained bitterly that no money has been earmarked for lethal equipment.
Welch suggested that the administration must proceed cautiously lest rebel forces receiving U.S. support face annihilation by Saddam's troops.
''We would like to help them in a way that's responsible ... and doesn't raise undue risk to them, either inside or outside,'' he said.