ABC and NBC pre-empted their Saturday morning cartoon shows to let children ask questions about the war with Iraq.

ABC led with a 90-minute "War in the Gulf: Answering Children's Questions," staged on its giant map set. With a studio audience of children, host and anchor Peter Jennings greeted the children in the TV audience."It's a little different from what you're accustomed to seeing on Saturday morning and you don't have to wake your parents up, but if they'd like to join you we'd like to see them," he said.

Jennings, strolling about the map, showed the children the theater of war and the positions of the armies, then went straight to the questions. And the children, as ever, asked very good questions.

"Can Saddam Hussein bomb us?" asked Allison in a call from Texas.

Jennings was more than ready for that one.

"No. No way. Do all you kids understand that? Saddam Hussein can do a lot of bad things, but he cannot bomb us in the United States. His missiles can't get here. And his aircraft can't get here. Why couldn't he get here to the United States? Want to take a guess? It's too far a trip."

NBC, in a two-hour, version of its "Today" show with anchors Garrick Utley and Mary Alice Williams, originally set 30 minutes for a children's call-in segment.

"The caliber of the calls was so exceptional and the telephones were so busy that the producers made the snap decision to go to an hour," said NBC spokeswoman Lynn Appelbaum. NBC took 29 calls from children in 15 states.

ABC led into its commericals with children's art. And it showed children speaking about the war, including the children of U.S. personnel in the gulf, children in Jordan and Israel, and American children of Arab descent.

And, at times, ABC also showed its relative inexperience at answering children's questions about the war.

At ABC, a young studio audience member asked why Israel does not attack Iraq.

In Tel Aviv, correspondent Dean Reynolds started with playground terms: Israel feels like you feel when somebody hits you and you want to hit back - but then he got into Israel's expectations of improving its "image."

"What is `image'?" Jennings shot back.