Arab heads of state are due to meet here Nov. 25, amid signs that the fragile bonds that united Egyptian President Sadat's Arab opponents are breaking up. Syrian Foreign Minister Abdel Halim Khaddam failed in intensive, last-minute efforts to have the summit postponed. Walking out of the last session of a preparatory foreign ministers' parley here Nov. 22, he said Syria thought existing Arab differences should be solved before any summit could produce worthwhile results.
He specified to journalists that Syrian relations with neighboring Jordan are "in crisis." But Syria also has problems with its eastern neighbor, Iraq, which justifiably accuses Syria of aiding iran in the continuing Gulf war.
Mr. Khaddam said Syria would definitely boycott the summit here. But conference sources said it would go ahead regardless, and Saudi Arabia's foreign minister held out hope Syria could be persuaded to attend.
The Syrian minister is scheduled to visit Libya and Algeria, principal paymasters in the hard-line Arab "steadfastness front," which also groups Syria, South Yemen, and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). He presumably will canvass their support for a boycott of the summit.
Syrian radio broadcasts have reported that tiny, Marxist South Yemen will join the boycott, and Libya is widely expected to do so, too. The Algerians argued against any boycott and probably will attend the summit conference.
The most difficult decision faces the PLO, whose executive committee is to meet to decide whether to participate in the summit. PLO chairman Yasser Arafat is thought to be unwilling to antagonize the majority of Arab states who favor the holding of the summit. But he recognizes that his supporters depend on cooperation with the Syrians for their continued activities in Lebanon.
One leaked, and apparently credible, text of a conference working paper seen by this correspondent would seem to confirm this view.
This text reaffirmed the resolutions of the Arab summits in Baghdad, Iraq and Tunis, Tunisia during the past two years, which came out against President Sadat's peace process with Israel. But whereas those sumsits spoke of "rejection" and "condemnation" of the Egyptian initiative and the Camp David accords, the latest text calls for "resisting" the Camp David process . . . "so that it is overthrown and its results nullified."
Elsewhere, the leaked text affirms that the summit "considers that [United Nations] Security Council Resolution 242 does not accord with Arab rights and does not form a valid basis to solve the mideast crisis and especially the problem of Palestine."
(Subscribing to such a formulation would mark a radical change for Jordan, which hitherto has accepted Resolution 242 as a basis for peace talks with Israel.)
The leaked test would reaffirm the recognition granted by previous arab summits of the PLO as "the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people inside and outside the occupied territories."
But there apparently was no firm agreement on the inclusion of a clause stating that "no Arab party except the PLO has any right to negotiate about the Palestine question, Palestinian lands, and the rights of the Palestinian Arab people."
Discussion of such a clause would reflect Palestinian fears that Jordan hopes in some way to share representation of the Palestinians with the PLO as a way around Israeli and United States refusal to talk with the organization. Certainly, Jordan's King Hussein seems to be preparing to lead a new Arab-American dialogue once Ronald Reagan takes office as president.
He told a Beirut weekly he would be glad to meet the new President after he takes office.