Arab hard liners appeared undecided yesterday about holding another summit meeting, although it has been publicly announced, to reiterate their condemnation of Egypt's go-it-alone peace initiative with Israel.
Syrian official sources and the official Algerian news agency announced yesterday that the summit will take place in Algiers with foreign ministers gathering Sunday and heads of state of government arriving two days later.
Specialists are skeptical that even if the summit - the second of its kind - takes place it will produce meaningful decisions.
Iraq's silence is the main cause for questioning its arch rival Syria's assurances about the holding of the conference in which Libya, South Yemen and the Palestine Liberation Organization would participate along with the host country, Algeria.
Analyst recalled that the original - and inconclusive - summit to rally opposition to Egyptian President Anwar Sadat was in doubt until the conferees actually arrived in Tripoli in early December.
Symptomatic of the skepticism was the view of an important Palestinian official who confided in private. "I think the summit is 99 percent sure of happening - and 99 percent sure of not reconciling Syria and Iraq."
With Egypt effectively renouncing and military role against Israel, Arab hard liners have long hoped that Iraq would contribute its oil riches and its Soviet-equiped armed forces to help make up the strategic balance.
The Tripoli summit lost most of its impact when Iraq walked out after four days and nights of hard bargaining rather than accept the relatively soft line advocated by Syria and backed by Algeria and the other participants.
Syria refused Iraqi demands that it denounce U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 which are the accepted international diplomatic under-pinning for a negotiated Middle East settlement. Iraq was also reportedly demanding that Syria withdraw its 30,000-man peacekeeping force from Lebanon - a sure prescription for renewed turmoil - and offering a joint military command in exchange.
Algerian President Houari Boumediene made a 10-day visit to Syria, Iraq and other Middle East Capitals - followed by visits to Moscow and Belgrade - in the name of reconciling the two bitterly rival wings of the Baath Socialist Party ruling in Baghdad and Damascus.
To date no signs of reconciliation have surfaced, but Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein is reported willing to attend the Algiers meeting, according to Syrian officials.
What remains unclear is why Iraq would give up these demands for basic Syrian concessions now that Sadat's difficulties with Israel have lessened the immediate probability of a separate Egyptian-Israeli peace.
Various theories are circulating about the Algiers summit.
One says Boumediene wants an Algiers summit for prestige reasons. He is said to want to repeat his 1975 success in reconciling Iraq and Iran - at the expense of the Kurds - in his capital.
According to another version Syria is determined to force Iraq to another summit in the hopes of either obliging the Baghdad government to drop its demands or appear as spoilers of the hard-line cause.
Boumediene's personal mission, moreover, has made it difficult for Iraq to stay away from Algiers - and embarrassing for it to stage another Tripoli-like walkout without appearing churlish. The only official Iraqi statement so far has reiterated its longstanding offer to hold the summit in Baghdad.
Syrian President Hafez Assad is reluctant to go to his rival's capital after years of hostility in which the two governments have sought to overthrow each other in a series of assassinations, attempted coups and plots.
Another theory suggests that Syria is dead set on holding the Algiers summit as a way to embarrass Saudi Arabia, the Arab world's banker and perpetual advocate of reconciliation and Arab unity.
Anti-Saudi sentiment in Syria - which surfaced yesterday in an editorial in the government newspaper Tishrin - reflects Assad's deep personal enmity toward Sadat which the Saudis would like to end in the time-honored fashion of pan-Arab reconciliation summits.
If anything anti-Sadat feeling has grown since mid-December when high Syrian officials said Syria would not deal with Egypt as long as Sadat was its president.
Another Syrian motivation resides in their fears that Yasser Arafat, the PLO leader, is again growing close to Saudi Arabia and its moderate line after two recent visits to Riyadh in the past week.