Despite US Senate scepticism concerning Microsoft's settlement deal with the Department of Justice, Microsoft's lawyers insist that the courts force the nine dissident US states to accede to the deal.

The nine dissenting states are seeking broader restrictions, including a requirement that Microsoft make Internet Explorer code open-source, that it port Office to other operating systems, and produce a stripped-down version of Windows OS.

The chairman of the US Senate committee in charge of examining the deal, Senator Patrick Leahy, said: "I find many of the terms of the settlement to be either confusingly vague, subject to manipulation, or both."

He also criticised the proposed enforcement mechanism of the deal, which includes a three-member technical oversight committee reporting to the Justice Department. He said it "lacks the power and timeliness necessary to inspire confidence in its effectiveness". The committee voiced concern that the deal could simply open the gates for more litigation.

Meanwhile, Microsoft's lawyers told the court: "It is readily apparently that the non-settling states seek to punish Microsoft and to advance the commerce interests of powerful corporate constituents - Microsoft competitors such as Sun Microsystems, Oracle, Apple and Palm."

Remedy recommendation In its brief, Microsoft questioned whether the nine states even have the authority to recommend remedies "on behalf of the citizenry of the entire country."

US assistant attorney general responsible for the case, Charles James rejected suggestions that it should have taken further measures, such as excluding Microsoft from markets outside the operating system market, requiring the company to make its code open-source or restricting its ability to integrate new products with the operating system.

"While it is certainly true that restrictions and requirements of this sort might be desirable and advantageous to Microsoft's competitors, they would not necessarily be in the interest of competition and consumers overall; many would reduce consumer choice rather than increase it," said James.

Microsoft lawyers told the court the dissenters suggested remedies are "unworkable", and asked it to apply the DOJ remedy proposals, despite the objections of the nine dissident states.

In related news, Associated Press reports that the judge involved in the settlement of the outstanding private actions agianst Microsoft has asked all parties to mediate over the currently proposed settlement. The resolution of this case remains in flux, AP reports: "No one knows what I'm going to do, including me", the judge warned.