AMMAN, JORDAN, JAN. 10 -- Prominent Jordanians are holding onto hopes for avoiding a war that could devastate their country, adhering to the belief that there still is room for a breakthrough in the Persian Gulf stalemate.

Foreign Minister Taher Masri said today that the failure of talks between U.S. Secretary of State James A. Baker III and Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz in Geneva do not necessarily signal war.

"What happened in Geneva does not mean the end of all peace efforts," Masri said. "Intense Jordanian and international efforts will start as of tomorrow when {U.N. Secretary General Javier Perez} de Cuellar comes to Amman on Friday before going to Baghdad," Masri told the Jordanian news agency, Petra.

"What happened yesterday in Geneva was expected," commented Dr. Walid Saadi, Jordan's former ambassador to Switzerland and a leading local authority on international law. "The positions are so wide apart, but if {Baker and Aziz} met for six hours, it means at least there was something to talk about, some common denominator," Saadi said. "We don't view the outcome as totally negative."

The belief that war can be averted at the last minute is taking root here. "People don't think there will be a war, because they don't want a war," said Walid Shehadeh, a young Jordanian businessman.

Samir Mutawi, a former adviser to King Hussein and now head of public relations at the Jordanian airline, said: "Both President Bush and {Iraqi President} Saddam {Hussein} have placed their honor on the scales. It is like standing on the edge of a cliff. You either face death or have the courage to jump to another cliff.

"My worry is that everyone will fall. Jordan is the weakest in the chain of countries in this crisis. If Iraq and Israel go at one another we will be sandwiched."