Allies and Cold War foes alike balked a decade ago when the Carter administration tried to impose a global embargo on trade with Iran for taking over the U.S. Embassy and holding American diplomats as hostages.

The Soviet Union vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution ordering trade sanctions and offered Iran free use of its roads to circumvent the trade embargo. India sent its trade minister to Tehran to see if it could pick up contracts given up by American firms. Japan decided it was more important to keep its oil links open than to help its major trading partner, the United States. Even Washington's closest allies in Western Europe were reluctant to go along with an embargo.

So economic sanctions against Iran generally were considered a failure.

With virtually every nation honoring the U.N. embargo on trade with Iraq, however, the economic sanctions against the government of Saddam Hussein are rated by Bush administration officials and independent observers as the most effective since World War II.

"This is an unprecedented embrace of the sanctions program. There has never been one that has had the breadth of commitment and coverage as this one," said Deputy Treasury Secretary John E. Robson.

Georgetown University economist Gary Clyde Hufbauer agreed, describing the global response to the sanctions as "amazing."

"This is technically the best embargo since the Second World War and shows the most auspicious signs of succeeding," added Hufbauer, who along with Jeffrey J. Schott and Kimberly Ann Elliott will release a new study of economic sanctions next week through the Institute for International Economics, a Washington think tank.

As a result of the economic embargo, Iraq is losing money at the rate of at least $19 billion a year because of the cutoff in oil exports, the source of more than 90 percent of Baghdad's hard-currency earnings. Further, Saddam was never able to get his hands on the bulk of Kuwait's wealth because of quick action by President Bush in freezing the overseas assets of Iraq and Kuwait immediately after Baghdad invaded.

Bush administration officials so far have found only small breaks in the almost total embargo on purchases of oil from Iraq or occupied Kuwait -- or of shipments of food, weapons or industrial goods into Iraq.

"The occasional shipment of artichokes {that get through} is not going to make a decided difference in this process," said Robson. He added that Iraqi officials "are chasing around the world trying to find ways around the sanction," but declined to provide details.

But Philippine officials said Iraq offered to swap an undetermined amount of crude oil for 50,000 metric tons of sugar, the Associated Press reported. The Philippine government said it was studying the offer, but said accepting it might violate the U.N. sanctions. The Philippines depends heavily on Iraqi oil, and the embargo is expected to force an increase in fuel prices there.

The Associated Press also reported that Saddam had offered Turkish President Turgut Ozal huge oil supplies at cut-rate prices if Turkey would violate the embargo.

Nonetheless, U.S. Wheat Associates, which keeps track of global grain sales, reported universal support for the embargo by major suppliers of wheat to Iraq, which imports at least 75 percent of its food. Australia suspended sales of 300,000 tons of wheat to Iraq and Canada prohibited further sales, U.S. Wheat officials said.

While there may be some shipments through traditional smugglers' routes over the borders with neighboring Iran, Jordan and Turkey, analysts said this will not be enough to meet Iraq's needs. Further, Iraq is short of cash and unlikely to be able to pay the sky-high prices that businessmen throughout the Middle East would charge to risk running the international blockade.

"The most important thing about the sanctions is that people are worried about being paid. Traders would be willing to violate the embargo if they thought they could get paid," added Washington attorney Donald deKieffer, former general counsel for the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

The study by the Institute for International Economics found that the embargo on trade with Iraq is one of the few times when economic and trade sanctions may successfully serve as a substitute for military action.

The main reason is the universal application of the sanctions by countries all over the world. The sanctions are being honored by Iraq's Mideast neighbors, the United States, Japan and the industrialed nations in Western Europe, developing countries such as India, newly industrialized nations in Asia and the Soviet Union and its former Eastern European satellites. Many of these countries have broken extensive trade tries with Iraq at a great cost to their own economies.

Some analysts questioned how long the broad international resolve would continue, however, especially since the sanctions cause economic harm to nations applying them as well as to Iraq.

Iraq has canceled payments on billions of dollars it owes to countries around the world. Other countries stand to lose business from close trade relations with Iraq that have been severed by the embargo.

Keeping the embargo going is a major goal of President Bush's extensive burden-sharing plan, announced Thursday, in which richer nations would contribute funds to poorer countries that are suffering economically from observing the embargo.

Romanian Ambassador Virgil Constantinescu, for instance, said the sanctions have cost his country $900 million in contracts as well as $1.7 billion that Iraq owes Romania and was going to pay back in deliveries of crude oil. The debt alone amounts to 20 percent of Romania's foreign exchange earnings, and the loss of oil from Iraq means that its refineries were forced to cut 25 percent of their capacity.

Nonetheless, Constantinescu said Romania will continue to abide by the U.N. sanctions. "This is a matter of principle," he said.

But not all nations, including many European allies, agree with the U.S. view that the embargo includes a ban on food shipments to Iraq.

"When the situation in Iraq gets critical in terms of food and medicine, some people may begin to have some doubts," Constantinescu predicted.