President Valery Giscard d'Estaing arrived here today for the first visit by a French head of state to Saudi Arabia, his country's main oil supplier.
Giscard was met at the airport by a crowd of 10,000 and King Khalid, who is suffering from a leg ailment that had been thought likely to prevent his attendance.
Saudi officials said Khalid's presence at the airport was a "special gesture," signaling the king's esteen for the French president.
Khalid waited in his limousine until Giscard stepped from the Concorde supersonic jet. The King, left the car briefly, supporting himself by an ebony cane inlaid with gold, shook hands and then was driven off. Crown Prince Fahd, the king's brother, was left to accompany Giscard through arrival ceremonies as the crowd chanted "Long Live Giscard d'Estaing" and other slogans.
During the four-day visit, Giscard is to have talks with the king and Prince Fand, who is first deputy prime minister. They are to discuss the Middle East, aid from industrial nations to the developing world and the expansion of Franco-Saudi relations.
French-Arab relations were strengthened earlier this month when a French court released Abu Daoud, the Palestinian suspected of organizing the massacre of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympics in Munich.
In an interview published today with the Saudi newspaper Okaz Giscard expressed hope that the Arab-Israeli standoff will be settled "in a way satisfying the interests and legal aspirations of the Palestinians."
Giscard added: "We are not afraid to proclaim our opinion with frankness and we realize that many other Western European nations have the same opinion as ourselves, though they do not say so openly and frankly."
Many critics of the Daoud release accused France of surrendering to Arab pressure in order to maintain the vital oil lifeline to the Middle East and North Africa. Giscard denounced the critic's "campaign of insults."
Aides to the French leader said the visit was not expected to produce spectacular results. They said it was intended more as a political trip than as an effort to win a great share of the $142 billion that the Saudis say they will spend on development over the next four years.
Last year France signed contracts with the Saudis for about $1.6 billion. The biggest was for providing two color television networks.
The most significant economic issue expected to come up in the talks is also political: development of an Egypt-based Arab arms industry for which the Saudis have promised capital and the French technical help.
In other Middle East Developments:
Lebanese Christian Kamal Jumblatt, leader of the Progressive Socialist Party, told reporters in Beirut that he will retire from public life and live in India to spend "the rest of my life reading and writing." He said resignation from party leadership and the Parliament "will take some time."
Conservative leaders that Jumblatt opposed in Lebanon's civil war held a weekend meeting in a Maronite mountain convent to seek "a new formula for coexistence."
Israel Radio reported that Lebanese leftist forces fired on the Christian border village of Ein Abel while 73 Israeli Arabs were attending the funeral there of the mother of the Maronite patriarch in Lebanon.
It was the first time that Israeli civilians had crossed into Lebanon, although residents of southern Lebanon have gone to Israel for work and medical treatment in recent months. There were no reports of casualties in the firing.
Forty Palestinian leaders met in Damascus, Syria, to discuss their relations with Jordan and enlargement of their parliament-in-exile.
In Jerusalem, the premier of Canada's Ontario Province, William Devis, said his government would take strong measures to assure that no firms there complied with the Arab boycott against Israel.