King Hussein of Jordan arrived in Damascus yesterday, shortly after Palestinian guerilla leader Yasser Arafat left the Syrian capital for Beirut, upsetting predictions that the two would meet for the first time in six years.

Hussein and Queen Alia were guests of Syrian President Hafez Asaad, who reportedly is trying to reconcile the Jordanian king and Arafat in the interest of Arab unity for the eventual peace talks with Israel.

In an interview with Time magazine, Hussein said that if the Palestinians refuse to attend talks or are barred by Israel, he will not represent them. "I don't see how there can be a substitute for Palestinians at the conference dealing with Palestinian problems," he said. Hussein returned to Amman after seeing Assad.

Meanwhile, U.N. Secretary General Kurt Waldheim - who had seen Arafat in Damascus on Saturday - arrived in Saudi Arabia. He presented King Khalid the U.N. peace medal in recognition of his contribution to the stabilization of world peace."

Waldheim is on a tour to sound out chances for reconvening the Geneva conference. During his meeting with Arafat, the two men were said to have discussed the possibility of the Palestine Liberation Organization attending the talks.

Hussein and Arafat have not met since the king's troops forced Palestinian guerillas from Jordan in a bloody crackdown in 1970.

In other developments:

The Israeli government said it is pushing the United States for permission to sell 24 Israeli-made Kfir jetfighters to Ecuador. But news reports said that the dealy in Washington may already have killed the deal. The Kfir uses an American-made engine.

Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and his chief rival, Defense Minister Shimon Peres, agreed that the Labor Party should decide at its convention Feb. 23 which of them will lead the party into May 17 elections.