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Gorbachev calls war "unacceptable'

Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev on Monday said a military solution in the Persian Gulf was "unacceptable" and urged Arab countries to pursue a settlement. His remarks in Paris came amid increasingly gloomy assessments by President Bush and his top aides on prospects of resolving the gulf crisis peacefully.

Although stressing solidarity with U.N. sanctions against Iraq, Gorbachev urged caution in dealing with what he described as an essentially Arab problem.

Gorbachev appeared to be opening the door to a possible compromise with President Saddam Hussein that would allow the Iraqi president to withdraw from Kuwait without losing face among Arabs.

But Bush, while praising Gorbachev for his support in the crisis, said he was not convinced that anything positive had emerged from Soviet efforts at diplomacy.

And Secretary of State James Baker said: "Let no one doubt: We will not rule out a possible use of force if Iraq continues to occupy Kuwait."

Hussein said Monday he has no intention of withdrawing his troops from Kuwait, despite the growing forces mounting against him.

"If an embargo would force the American people to withdraw from the last state that was linked to the United States _ say Hawaii _ then the same standards, if they were to be applied, would probably lead the Iraqis to consider withdrawal from Kuwait," he said.

"The United States has expressed its position. We have expressed ours," he said.

The Security Council kept up its pressure on Hussein Monday, voting to hold Iraq responsible for war damages and human rights abuses. It urged states to document financial losses and mistreatment of civilians arising from the invasion and occupation of Kuwait.

A few hours after Gorbachev made his remarks in Paris, 257 French hostages boarded an Iraqi plane and flew home to France. France says all French citizens who wanted to leave Iraq have now done so.

Returning French captives said Americans and Britons held at strategic military and industrial sites "have it very difficult."

Of the 3,500 U.S. citizens in Iraq and Kuwait before the invasion, about 700 remain. Of those, about 100 are being held in strategic locations to deter U.S. attack, and about 60 are said to be seriously ill.

"Please take them away," one woman said. "They cannot carry on much longer."

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