The Kremlin saw yesterday's withdrawal statement from Iraq as "encouraging," heightening Soviet anticipation of Monday's meeting between President Mikhail Gorbachev and Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz. While many observers did not see the Soviets drifting from the allied coalition arrayed against Iraq, they did see Moscow continuing its efforts to act in the role of peace mediator.

European and Arab coalition allies joined the United States in dismissing Iraq's withdrawal offer, Arab nations outside the coalition welcomed it, and Israel said that Saddam Hussein must be deposed as head of the Iraqi government by war's end.

An overwhelming majority of Americans -- 80 percent -- feel Saddam or the Iraqi government is to blame for the large number of civilian deaths in Wednesday's bombing in Baghdad, and a solid majority continues its support for the Persian Gulf War, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll.

President Bush's suggestion that Saddam be overthrown is based on the belief -- but perhaps no hard evidence -- that desperation about the war has overcome Iraqi troops and the governing elite.

The allies have prison camps ready to house more than 100,000 prisoners, but fewer than 100 are in one camp administered by the United States. Contrary to some reports, the prisoners showing up there are in relatively good shape and included the unlikely coincidence of one Iraqi, a former student in the United States, who recognized one of his captors as an acquaintance from suburban Chicago.