President Anwar Sadat, disregarding advice for moderation, angrily criticized Saudi Arabia and Egypt's other Arab opponents today, accusing the Saudis of waging a hate campaign against Egypt in agreement with Libya.
Sadat's remarks, in a speech to Egypt's Supreme Judiciary Council, underlined fears in the Egyptian government that the conservative Saudi royal family might be drifting toward more cooperation with Libya's radical leader Muammar Qaddafi in opposition to Sadat and his peace policies with Israel.
Some Egyptian officials are understood to be concerned that if no such Saudi-Libyan ties exist now, Sadat's criticism could help form them.
Today's statement marked an escalation in Sadat's increasingly strong attacks on Arab nations opposed to his peacemaking. He has persisted in the attacks despite advice from foreighn nations, including the United States, and from officials in his own Foreighn Ministry that Egypt would be better served by seeking to win over its foes rather than baiting them.
In Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Fahd rejected Sadat's accusations, denying what he said were allegations that the Saudis were plotting to starve Egyptians and overthrow the Sudanese government, Reuter reported from Jeddah.
In an interview to be published in a London-based Arabic newspaper, Fahd said, "This accusation is very regrettable and surprising at a time when all are witness to the efforts we exert to unite (Arab) ranks." He added, "Those who claim that Saudi Arabia wanted to starve the Egyptian people do not mention the facts and are tyring to throw the burden of their failure and mistakes in the political and economic fields on others."
Egyptina Foreign Ministry officials have attached particular concern to Sadat's criticism of Saudi Arabia, once Egypt's greatest benefactor and still among the most moderate Arab countries. Saude cooperation is considered essential by U.S. and Egyptian diplomats for full success in the peace negotiations set up under the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty signed March 26.
Egyptian officials were concerned particularly by reports last week that Saudi King Khalid visited Libya for conversations with Qaddafi. The head of the Saudi National Guard, Prince Abdullah, also was a prominent guest of honor at last month's celebrations marking the 10-year anniversary of Qaddafi's "breakthrough revolution."
Since then, there have been speculative reports in the officially guided Cairo press that the Saudis are working with Qaddafi in efforts to cause trouble in Sudan. The Sudanese leader, Jaafar Nimeri, has made his country one of only three Arab nations -- along with Oman and Somalia -- to refrain from breaking relations with Egypt over the peace treaty with Israel.
In addition, Sudan is a close neighbor and traditional ally of Egypt. Any change to a hostile leadership in Khartoum would be viewed with serious concern in Cairo.
Independent observers here expressed doubt, however, that the tradition-minded Saudi royal family would draw very close to the Arab revolutionary firebrand ruling Libya. Qaddafi often has called for the overthrow of conservative Arab monarchies such as those in Saudi Arabia and its Persian Gulf allies.
He has even renamed his country the "jamahirya," an Arabic neologism translating roughly as "massdom," to underline his differences with the traditional kingdoms and republics. Qaddafi regards himself as the legitimate heir to the mantle of Arab nationalism once worn by the late president Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt.
It is difficult to see, the observers said, how this ideology could fit into a common effort with Saudi traditionalism. Egyptian Foreign Ministry officials, nevertheless, clearly have been worried in recent days that something is going on between Riyadh and Tripoli.
"They are up to something, but we don't know what," one of them said recently.
Their suspicions were fueled by reports that Crown Prince Fahd, who with Kahalid runs Saudi affairs, has been irritated by Sadat's repeated attacks on Saudi policies and intentions. The Saudi leader also was reported peeved at Sadat's role in persuading the United States to drop its recent effort to draw moderate Palestinians into the autonomy negotiations through a new U.N. Security Council resolution.
In a remark likely to stir further Saudi anger, Sadat said today that pamphlets are circulating within Saudi Arabia accusing the royal family of profligacy and gambling.
The Egyptian leader also said in an interview two weeks ago that Saudi Arabia is cooperating with the radical Baath Party leadership in Iraq to foment trouble in Sudan. Sadat accused Fahd of "doing everything that [Iraqi President Saddam Hussein] wants him to."
Such remarks appear calculated to further anger the Saudis, Foreign Ministry diplomats say. The result, they fear, will be increased difficulty in drawing Saudi support for whatever the autonomy talks produce or evolve
"We should, on the contrary, be doing everything we can to bring them toward us," said one veteran Egyptian diplomat.
In the Egyptian system, however, the advice of Foreign Ministry officials weighs little in Sadat's planning. He is known to consult with a limited circle of advisers, making the decisions and leaving only the details for lower-ranking officials.
Sadat recently asked his National Democratic Party to prepare a paper exposing Arab hostility against Egypt since the treaty, Egyptian sources said, and the Foreign Minitry has been given no role in drawing it up.