AMMAN, JORDAN -- King Hussein told Jordanians that he stands with them while the region is on the verge of catastrophe.

"I stand with you in our nation's and people's march," he said in a televised speech. "The specter of war is looming over the Arabs. . . . After all doors were shut, our region today is facing a deep abyss after the turning of the gulf crisis into an imminent catastrophe."

"This is a time of reckoning for most Arab leaders," an Arab diplomat here observed as Arab heads of state throughout the region gave speeches on the eve of what could be the most momentous crisis of the Arab world.

Although it was largely business as usual in the streets of Amman, security forces quietly took up new positions during the day with truck-mounted machine guns and additional patrols. In downtown Amman, long lines formed at bakeries and food warehouses.

Hussein had spent the past week touring European capitals in a last bid to find a peaceful solution and secure the survival of his kingdom. He told his people he had tried in vain to mediate a settlement and he warned of the grave consequences a military showdown could pose to human lives and the environment.

"A destructive war is about to begin and will not leave behind it any victors," he said solemnly, but he added grimly, "We will only bow down to God."

"Your Arab army is in the trenches on the front lines and it is backed by its steadfast people," he said.