Saudi Arabia and Jordan served advance notice on Secretary of State Cyrus Vance yesterday that they have major reservations about the Camp David "framework" for an Arab-Israeli peace plan.
The two moderate Arab countries - whose support for the Egyptian-Israeli accords is crucial - issued cautiously worded statements criticizing elements of the plan following emergency cabinet meetings chaired by Jordan's King Hussein and Saudi King Khalid.
An official Saudi communique, released shortly before Vance departed from the Middle East to explain and seek support for the Camp David agreements, expressed appreciation for "the efforts exertd by President Carter."
But, the Saudi government said, "what has been reached at the Camp David conference cannot be considered a final acceptable formula for peace."
Jordan, in an official communique, criticized Egyptian and Israeli plans to sign a separate peace treaty within three months, and disavowed any "legal or ethical commitment" to the Camp David accords.
Many Western diplomats expressed surprise that Saudi Arabia and Jordan decided to take issue publicly with the agreements befoer hearing from Vance, who is due to arrive in Amman today for talks with King Hussein.
But the emergency cabinet meetings yesterday - and disclosure that Hussein had conferred by phone with Saudi Arabia's King Khalid as well as with President Hafez Assad of Syria - indicated the extent to which the Camp David accords have thrown the Arab world into disarray.
Despite the initial Saudi and Jordanian statements yesterday expressing objections to elements of the agreements, U.S. officials concerned with the Middle East remained at least publicly optimistic last night about Vance's trip.
These U.S. officials are particularly hopeful that Hussein will at last become actively involved in the peace process. They feel that despit his reluctance up to now to join the Israeli-Egyptian negotiations, the Jordanian monarch will find it difficult not to play a role if a start is made on creation of a working Palestinian entity.
Some encouragement for the view that the Jordanian government's cool reaction to the Camp David accords might not be its final word came last night from Hazem Nuseibeh, Jordan's ambassador to the United Nations.
Nuseibeh, at a press conference, expressed hope that Vance's visit to Amman would "clarify certain issues which have presumably been left out of the Camp David texts."
"We can only judge after we see the exchange of views," he said.
The Saudi government statement, while setting out several objections yesterday to the Camp David accords, carefully refrained from criticizing Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.
The Saudi Cabinet said the formula was unacceptable because:
"It does not explain in a definite manner Israel's intention to withdraw from all occupied Arab territories which it has occupied by force, foremost of which is Holy Jerusalem."
"It does not stipulate the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination and the establishment of their state on the soil of their country."
It ignores the role of the Palestine Liberation Organization, which Arab summit conferences have considered the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people whom Israel rendered homeless."
But in a nod to Sadat, the Saudi cabinet said in felt these reservations do not give Saudi Arabia "the right to interfere in the private affairs of any Arab state, nor to dispute its right to restore its occupied territories through armed struggle or through peaceful efforts inas much as that does not clash with the higher Arab interest."
White the latter point could be viewed in Cairo as oblique approval of a separate peace beween Egypt and Israel, the Saudi cabinet in fact seemed deeply concerned yesterday with preventing such an occurence, which would inevitably further split an already sorely divided Arab world.
The growing concern in Jordan over what many now fear is a very real possibility was clearly reflected in the communique issued following a three-hour cabinet meeting in Amman.
The statement, which was personally approved in its final form by King Hussein, said Jordan "considers separate ation by any of the Arab parties . . . a weakening of the Arab position which diminishes the chances of reaching the aspired just and comprehensive solution."
Jordanian fears that Sadat may be ready to go it alone wer heightened by news of the resignation of Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohammed Ibrahim Kamel, who told officials in Amman earlier this year that he would resign before going along with a separate Egyptian-Israeli deal.
But reports from both Riyadh and Amman last night suggested that Saudi and Jordanian leaders both understand clearly that they cannot simply reject the Camp David accords.
The Saudis, in particular, feel the need to develop an Arab consensus that can be used to push for a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace.
"The current circumstances the Arab nation is undergoing require more than at any time hitherto reunion and unification of views and adoption of a unanimous Arab stand in order to bring about its supreme objective," the Saudi Cabinet declared.
Syria, the Palestinians and other members of the Arab "rejection front," meanwhile, continued their scathing attacks yesterday on the Israeli-Egyptian accords.
In Damascus, where presidents of the hardline Arab states gathered for a meeting to form a strategy for thwarting the agreements, Syrian Premier Mohammed Aly Halabi charged that Sadat had "stripped himself of all Arab affinities."
Syrian officials also took pain to emphasize yesterday that their decision to receive Vance - who will stop in Damascus after visiting Riyadh Saturday - did not imply any softening in their opposition to the Egyptian-Israeli agreements.
"Our welcome to Secretary Vance does not mean by any interpretation that we have two policies - one for domestic consumption and one for the United States," a Syrian official said. "We are welcoming him because he is secretary of state. We are ready to listen, and we will also give him our views."
Washington Post staff writer Don Oberdorfer and special correspondents Michael Berlin at the United Nations and Rami G. Khouri in Amman also contributed to this story. Khouri also reported:
Senior officials said privated yesterday that Jordan will intensify its year-old efforts to forge a new Arab political consensus to provide a frame work for collective action to replace the bilateral approach of Sadat.
The officials said that the Camp David agreements certainly contained some positive aspects, such as the focus on the need for an independentPalestinian negotiating role and Israel's willingness to talk about the ultimate status of the occupied areas, thereby admitting that those areas could revert to Arab sovereignty.
But the officials quickly added that the mechanics and details of implementing the Camp David agreements water down and negate these few positive principles, making the total package unacceptable as a basis for negotiations on a bilateral or trilateral basis.
The jordanian position is essentially a continuation of that of the past year, based first and foremot on not alenating any group of states in the Arab world.