Arab foreign and economic ministers admitted today that they are unable to agree on what actions to take against egypt fo rsigning a peace treaty with Israel.
Dropping at least temporarily their attempt ot put up a unified front of opposition to Etypt, they recessed their meeting here and authorized Iraqi Foreign Minister Saadoun Hamadi to make the split public.
The conference still may adopt some face-saving compromise at its tfinal session scheduled for Friday. But the impression here already is strong that there will be no unified, concerted Arab campaign to bring down Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.
In an unusually frank briefing, Hamadi said the ministers could not agree because one group of countries, led by Saudi Arabia, wants to impose only slap-on-the-wrist sanctions authorized by an Arab summit conference here last November, while others, including Iraq, seek a complete rupture of all diplomatic and economic ties to Egypt.
The conference, Hamadi said, is paralyzed by the impasse on this key point. The participants are unable to take up other items on the agenda, including calls for action against the United States for its role in sponsoring the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty, because they could not resolve the because they could not resolve the first point. Hamadi said he could not predict whether any sanctions against the United States would be voted at the final session, despite what he said was strong sentiment in favor, because of inability to resolve the main issue.
Hamadi, as conference chairman, said the meeting was adjourned until Firday night to give the ministers tame to consult their home governments and , if necessary, tarvel to their capitals.
Barring some unforeseen breakthrough when the meeting resumes, the effect is to leave Sadat unscathed, with Arab rhetoric once again failing to translate into effective action.
The split also appears to have headed off the developing tactical alliance of Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iraq, whose representatives came here united in unhappiness about the treaty but have publicly disagreed over what to do about it.
Technically, the Saudis are not supporting Egypt or endorsing Sadaths action. According to the Saudi foreign minister, Prince Saud, the Saudis favor carrying out the relatively mild sanctions called for at the November summit conference and are merely taking a narrower view than the hardliners of what this conference is authorized to do. Under the circumstances, however, it amounts to a victory for the Egyptians, because in the Egyptian view only the Saudis are able to do them any real damage.
Saudi Arabia is financing major new arms purchases for Egypt and also contributes economic aid. If the Saudis now decline to joint the other Arabs clamoring for an end to that assistance, the Egyptians are over a major hurdle in surviving opposition to the trearty.
It still is possible the Saudis will act on their own against Egypt, outside the framework of the Arab summit. So far, however, there is no sign that they will do so, and in fact hard-liners here have criticized the Saudis for unvillingness to jeopardize their relations with the United States by turning against Egypt.
Chastized last night by Palestinian delegates, who were joined by Syria and Libya in a walkout over the failure to impose tough sanctions on Egypt, the Saudis defended themselves today. Saud told reporters that while Saudi Arabia supports the Palestinian cause, this meeting is not authorized to go beyond the sanctions provided for at the November meeting. Those include transfer of Arab League headquarters out of Egypt and imposition of the Arab trade boycott on Egyptians doing business with Israel.
"Anything else," he said, is "outside the stipulations of the Baghdad summit."
While the ministers here might recommend that Arab countries take additional measures, such as breaking diplomatic relations on an individual basis, he said, even a unanimous call for such action would not be binding because "relations between nations are the sovereign prerogative of every state."
He dismissed as an "empty bidding contest" a call by the Palestine Liberation Organization for an oil embargo against the United States-a proposal made last night by PLO leader Yasser Arafat. The demand reportedly angered the Saudis because it asked for something there was no chance they could deliver, and because Arafat suggested they were not fully supporting the Palestinians if they refused to go along.
A PLO official went further today, saying, "from today we will not hesitate to take any action against America and against U.S. interests. There is nothing left to lose."
The Baghdad summit said nothing about punishing the United States, but the American role in the peace treaty has become the target of strong criticism here.
Hamadi said there is a "widespread feeling that the result and the Arab world should take action against the U.S. in the fields of oil, trade and petrodollars." But he said no decision had been reached on a call for sanctions against the United States and he did not know if one would be.
He said the narrow Saudi view of the conference mandate "is not the opinion of most of the Arab countries." While the Baghdad meeting admittedly did not call for a total break with Egypt, he added, several delegations argued that a catch-all phrase about "unifying all Arab efforts" to opposed Egypt justified going beyond the specific instructions of the heads of state.
He would not say which countries were in which camp. It was learned from other sources that the PLO, Syria and Libya, which returned without explanation today to the conference that they walked out of last night, were taking the hard view along with Iraq.The Saudis had support from at least some of the conservative sheikdoms and probably of Morocco.