IN these dark days before the seemingly inevitable outbreak of war, hope becomes increasingly hard to find.

We, like Tony Blair, have to hope that the United Nations as a whole can pass a second resolution which authorises war.

In fact, it must pass that resolution because, as the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has said, action without it would have its legitimacy "seriously impaired".

Action without it will splinter the world. Old Europe will be set against new Europe (just as old Labour will be set against new Labour with potentially disastrous fall-out for Mr Blair). The Soviet Union will once again be opposed to the US, and Arab countries will have an understandable chip on their shoulders that their views have been trampled beneath a foreign invasion. Meanwhile, the US will unilaterally spin off, tackling other states it considers to be rogue.

A second resolution will not be universally accepted, but at least it will bind a majority of the world together. It will at least be a nod that democracy - which the US and the UK are planning to implant into Iraq - is the only way that modern societies can operate.

And this is where hope begins to fail us. We've already seen the immense pressure that the Turkish government came under to accept US troops against the will of the Turkish people. On a technicality, the Turkish Parliament rejected the US's billion dollar bribe - but will smaller nations like Guinea and Cameroon be able resist such pressure? This will not be democracy; it will be blackmail (and we've absolutely no doubt that, on the other side of the coin, France and Russia are offering the greatest inducements they can afford, too).

And what if the US and the UK do get the nine votes needed for their second resolution? How dare France or Russia then explode their nuclear veto in the UN? That will not be democracy; it will be dictatorship.

The US and the UK must meet France and Russia in the middle - which is where the six smaller Security Council countries sit waving their ideas about a new resolution that gives Iraq 45 days to comply.

If, as the French maintain, Iraq is serious about disarming then Hans Blix's report in 45 days' time will be full of positives and the US and the UK will have to accept that their show of military might has forced Saddam to disarm. But if Blix reports that Saddam is still shilly-shallying with his weapons, France will have to accept that only force can disarm Iraq.

Our only hope, idealistic as it may be, lies in democracy and compromise.