Abdul Karim Karmi, 73, an area resident for the past five years who was a Palestinian poet and a former government official and attorney in Syria, died of sepsis Saturday at George Washington University Hospital.

Mr. Karmi was the author of four volumes of poetry which he wrote under the pen name "Abu Salma." They were published in the Middle East in Arabic. They were "The Homeless," published in 1964, and "Songs From Home," "From Palestine My Pen," and "The Collected Works of Abu Salma," all published in 1971.

He was born in Tulkarm, Palestine, practiced law in Jerusalem and was director of an Arab broadcasting station in Jerusalem before leaving his homeland in 1948.

After settling in Syria, he practiced law and became a judge as well as an official in the Syrian Ministry of Information before coming to the United States in the mid-1970's. He was a resident of Chevy Chase. t

In 1978, he was the recipient of the Lotus Award from the Organization of Afro-Asian Writers. Last April, he was elected chairman of the Union of Palestinian Writers and Jouranlists.

His wife, Rokie Karmi, died in 1978. Survivors include a son, Dr. Said Karmi of Chevy Chase; a brother, Hassan Karmi of London, England, and three grandchildren.