El Salvador's government and rebels agree that it is time to end more than a decade of bloody civil war.

The latest round of talks in the year-old effort to solve the conflict went into weekend recess in Mexico City Saturday after what President Alfredo Cristiani characterized as "eight days of intense negotiations.""The peace talks have come to a crucial moment," Cristiani told reporters. "There have been substantial advances but we have to admit that it has been difficult . . . We have not overcome all the obstacles but the work continues."

This is the eighth round of talks since the two sides agreed to U.N.-mediated negotiations in April 1990. But the meeting has been billed by both sides as a possible turning point and the best chance yet of reaching concrete solutions to fighting that has left an estimated 75,000 people dead.

"Everyone considers this to be the mother of all negotiations," rebels of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, or FMLN, said in a recent broadcast over their clandestine radio station, Radio Venceremos.

A Western diplomat concurred, saying: "They finally are really getting down to the nitty gritty."