The Gulf: Pausing at the Rim of the Abyss

Suddenly it's time to talk. But while both sides seem to be looking for an exit, neither is ready to give way on its basic demands.

Having marched headlong to the precipice of war, both sides in the Persian Gulf conflict peered into the abyss last week and took a deep breath. From all the signs, each party wanted to inch back from the brink.

There was suddenly an enormous amount of talking -- peace talk, settlement talk, negotiation talk -- but most of it was just that, talk. Saddam Hussein, looking a little sweatier, issued a flurry of offers to negotiate, but his antics seemed intended mainly to avert a military showdown. A clutch of mediators led by U.N. Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar set off...

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