Just who won the Persian Gulf war, anyway?

Recent news dispatches from Iraq seem to indicate that Saddam Hussein is growing more arrogant, is defying allied troops, wants to put off paying reparations for war damages, and is still killing his opponents in what refugees say is a brutal purge.Saddam has come out of hiding and has been appearing at rallies, firing a pistol into the air to demonstrate symbolic defiance of the allied victors. He has rejected a plan to allow U.N. troops into northern Iraq to guarantee the safety of Kurdish refugee camps.

President Bush has been trying to replace allied soldiers in the refugee area with U.N. forces, but Saddam's government has rejected that move, saying the dispute with the Kurds is an internal matter and will be solved by negotiations with the Kurds.

That stance seems to conveniently ignore the fact that U.S. and allied soldiers essentially are part of a U.N. expedition. The Bush administration has insisted for weeks that the U.N. already has full authority to police northern Iraq, even over Saddam's objections. But U.N. Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar does not agree with that position, much to the irritation of U.S. and British officials.

Saddam's troops also are showing signs of resistance to allied efforts to expand the refugee area in the north, reinforcing some cities near the refugee camps. Will American troops have to use force to remove them?

In the south, where a Shiite rebellion was crushed by Iraqi troops after the cease-fire with allied forces, the killing continues. Refugees from Basra, the country's second largest city, are streaming into a Red Cross camp on the Kuwait border, carrying tales of horror.

They say schools and universities have been converted into prisons. Secret police are torturing families, friends and neighbors of suspected rebels, and Shiite civilians are being murdered in the streets, their bodies left lying for weeks as examples. Doctors have been imprisoned for treating Shiite rebels and civilians. Even children have been casually gunned down. Thousands of refugees trying to flee have been blocked by Republican Guard checkpoints.

While all of this has been going on, Saddam has asked for a five-year delay in paying war reparations, saying Iraq needs all its oil revenues to feed its people and repair the shattered economy. Oil income will barely cover the country's debt service in the coming years, he complains.

Saddam's efforts to get out of paying reparations should be flatly rejected by the U.N. This is no time to do Saddam any favors.

In fact, each passing week makes it appear that the allied forces made a mistake by not continuing the Persian Gulf fight for just a few more days and crushing Saddam.