Jordan's King Hussein once again rejected participation in the Camp David Middle East peace process today, but said, "the opportunities for a just peace are better now than at any other time in the past.
In a speech to the U.N. General Assembly, Hussein repeatedly condemned Israel's occupation of the territories seized at the time he last addressed the General Assembly in 1967, but his carefully constructed speech contained paragraphs to please all the parties with which Hussein deals -- the United States, the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Arab nations.
U.S. officials characterized the speech as moderate.
Hussein's bilateral relations with the Carter administration have frayed since the Egyptian-Israeli Camp David accord. He met with Secretary of State Cyrus Vance for 90 minutes here Monday, but the king, who has visited the White House often during his 27 years on the throne, had no plans to visit Washington.
U.S. and Jordainian officials said a meeting with Carter was still possible. Whether an invitation from Carter would be forthcoming appeared to depend in part on how the White House reacted to Hussein's speech here.
White House officials have expressed anger over secent Jordanian statements attacking the Camp David peace process and U.S. policy. Some officials save said that those who insult the United States should not expect invitations to the White House.
Hussein relations with the Palestine Liberation Organization have improved as frictions have developed with Washington. Hussein's speech, however, does not demand an independent Palestinian state, but only self-determination for the Palestinians, a phrase which leaves the door open for a federation of the Palestinian West Bank with Jordan.
Hussein told the General Assembly that "the Camp David accords resulted in what we perceive as contrary to our national interest, to the interests of the Palestinian people, and to the interests of the Arab world."
He suggested returning the Middle East peace process to an international forum and said that Jordan is ready "to consider suggestions from any quarter with regard to the implementation of a just settlement, so long as they abide by the principle of (Israeli) withdrawal and an equitable solution of the Palestine question.
One well-informed observer said Hussein appeared to be looking toward a future time when the Camp David negotiations would reach an impasse and the United States and Egypt would be less hostile to suggestions for talks in another framework than they are now.
President Carter's political troubles, reflected by his low standing in the polls and a possible primary challenge by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), make it increasingly difficult for those with doubts to trust the Camp David process, which sets out a five-year time period for gradual Israeli concessions.
Arab leaders also expect that the Carter administration will be less and less inclined to pressure Israel as the primary elections near.
Hussein has refused to participate in the Camp David process because it does not end Israeli control over the West Bank and Gaza. "The occupied territories are indivisble," he told the General Assembly. "They are all subject to the principle of the inadmissibility of the acquistion of other people's territories through the use of force."
The General Assembly members are overwhelmingly hostile to the Camp David approach to peace and Hussein's speech was received with prolonged applause.
In their meeting Monday, Hussein and Vance briefly discussed the tank sale which added to bilateral frictions.
Jordan was angered when the United States refused to let it have an advanced night sight which Israel already possesses. Jordan, already unhappy over Camp David, began to look to other countries (word illegible) us close to buying about 275 Chieftain tanks from Britain, according to well informed sources. Jordan will also be buying about 100 M-60s from the United States.