King Hussein of Jordan said yesterday that he and visiting Syrian President Hafez Assad saw "eye to eye" on the necessity of a "total re-examination" of the Camp David agreements.
The king's outspoken remarks were made to reporters after a four-hour meeting with Assad, who later flew to Saudi Arabia on the next leg of his mission to the Arab world to muster opposition to the Camp David agreements.
But they were in fact addressed to roving U.S. Ambassador Alfred Atherton, who arrived yesterday evening as part of Washington's continuing effort to persuade the king to participate in negotiations on the future of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.
Instead of keeping an equal distance between Assad and the Americans - both of whom are pressing him for a definite commitment for or against the Camp David accords - the bearded, 42-year-old monarch preferred to focus his remarks on the United States.
Until now the king's criticism of the United States has been much less outspoken than that of Assad, who labeled the American-sponsored agreements "a stab in the back of the Arabs."
Declaring that the meeting was a "very important day," the king said he and Assad "see eye to eye on most things, if not all things" and will "keep in close touch."
"We share the same desire for a just and durable peace," Hussein said, "but not on the basis of what we have been offered in the recent past."
Jordan, he said, was sending lots of questions to its "friends in the United States" for "concrete answers."
As part of a continuing process Hussein reiterated the dept of his misgivings about Jordan's allotted role in negotiaions as outlined in the Camp David agreements.
Asked exactly what was needed, he responded: "It requires a total re-examination of the entire position."
He listed such specific problems as the fate of Israel-annexed East Jerusalem, Jewish settlements on the West Bank and "what comes after five years" when the accord's transitional period expires.
"What we've heard so far," apparently from the U.S. Embassy here and from Secretary of State Cyrus Vance who spent two days in Amman last week on an information mission, "doesn't come near to that," he said.
Moreover, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin's recent remarks "confirmed our worst suspicions," the king said. He did not elaborate, but apprently was referring to Begin's statement limiting the freeze on Israeli settlements on the West Bank to three months.
By insisting that "hardly any (difference existed) at this stage" between Jordan and Syria, Hussein was protecting himself against any suspicion that he was kowtowing to his longtime American protector.
Notwithstanding the tone of Hussein's remarks, Jordan and Syria have different interests despite their now somewhat lackluster alliance born three years ago when then secretary of state Henry Kissinger negotiated the second Israeli withdrawal from the Sinai.
Jordan basically would like to join the negotiations on the West Bank, it is generally thought, if the Americans can make the public commitment the king desires on the comprehensive peace implications of any West Bank deal.
Syria, although committed to peaceful negotiations despite its leadership of the Arab hardliners, has fewer illusions about its ability to recover the Golan Heights, also lost to Israel in 1967.
Moreover, despite statements from Eyptian President Anwar Sadat threatening to negotiate the West Bank aspects of the Camp David accords if Jordan declines, observers write them off as bluster. Without Jordanian participation, the West Bank deal would remain a dead letter and reveal the Camp David agreements as simply a separate peace between Egypt and Israel.
The United States has argued that the Camp David deal was simply one step on the road to a comprehensive peace and presumably would be embarrassed by a separate peace on the Sinai.
Although Hussein chose to underline the positive nature of his relations with Syria, observers do not rule out possible Syrian troublemaking if the king were to join the negotiations on the basis of the Camp David accords.
Both countries are weak and subject to Israeli pressure, especially Syria which has 30,000 combat troops tied down in Lebanon.
News services reported the following developments in the Middle East:
Israel's opposition Labor Party threw its support to the Camp David accords making parliamentary approval a certainty and opening the way for Israel-Egyptian peace talks to start as early as next week.
Egypt launched a diplomatic campaign to win Arab backing for the Camp David accords as Acting Foreign Minister Butro Ghali called in Arab ambassadors is Cairo to explain the Egyptian determination to continue the peace process of Saudi Arabia. The king, due to fly yesterday for talks with King Khalid
Egyptian Deputy Premier Hassan Tohami flew from Cairo to Geneva to the United States for medical treatment, has been resting at his villa near Geneva.
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat sent massages to Communist, Arab and Islamic leaders as well as Pope John Paul criticizing the Camp David accords. In his message to Moscow, Arafat discussed the "real threat to Palestine", while in the message to the pontiff he talked about the fate of the holy places in Jerusalem.
The leader of South Yemen, one of the hardline Arab states opposed to the Camp David process, called on the Arabs to work out a new alliance with the Soviet Union to defeat the "imperialist-Zionist alliance."