Former president Richard M. Nixon, returning from a trip to meet with leaders of four Arab nations, called tonight for an economic quarantine of Libya and said it is in Israel's interest to assure results from the negotiations on Palestinian autonomy.

All the leaders he spoke with on his private visit, made after he attended the funeral of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, expressed concern about Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, Nixon said.

"An international threat requires an international response," he said. "Our military options are limited. Another course which might be considered is to impose an international economic quarantine on Libya. As one Mideast leader put it to me bluntly, 'Why doesn't the West quit buying oil from Qaddafi?' "

Nixon's written statement, typed and duplicated by a U.S. Embassy secretary here, took the form of an analysis of positions held by the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Tunisia and Morocco, and contained some cautious advice on how the Reagan administration should proceed in the Middle East following the assassination of Sadat.

Nixon, who made most of his trip on Air Force One and planes of other governments, is on a waiting list to leave for New York on a commercial flight Sunday, a spokesman said.

The report seemed less striking by its content -- generally consonant with the Reagan administration's views -- than by the fact that the disgraced former president made it at all, sharing his assessment and opinion with the U.S. public on critical issues faced by President Reagan.

Nixon's chief aide, Nick Ruwe, said the former president had U.S. Embassy administrative officer Charles Emmons call bureaus of The Washington Post, The New York Times and The Associated Press here to have the statement picked up at Nixon's suite in the Crillon Hotel, traditional Paris headquarters for visiting dignitaries.

Ruwe said Nixon's four-page statement was a summary of remarks made to journalists as he departed Fez and talks with Moroccan King Hassan II.

In issuing the statement, Nixon seemed to come closer to seeking the role of elder statesman than at any time since his resignation as president under pressures of the Watergate scandal in 1974. His trips to China in 1976 and to Europe on three other occasions produced no such formal statements analyzing foreign affairs and proclaiming positions on U.S. policy.

"This was, if the term is right, more substantive," said Ruwe.

Nixon was part of the official U.S. delegation to Sadat's funeral Oct. 10, with former presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford and former secretary of state Henry Kissinger, along with Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr. and other officials.

Instead of returning to the United States with Carter and Ford, Nixon flew in a Saudi plane to Jeddah for discussions with King Khalid and Crown Prince Fahd, then continued to Jordan, Tunisia and Morocco for talks with leaders of those countries.

At the time, State Department spokesman Dean Fischer emphasized that, although Nixon had informed Haig of his plans to make the trip, he was going as a private citizen without any mission from the U.S. government. Ruwe reiterated that point tonight, saying:

"He wasn't carrying any secret messages or anything like that. It was getting the view of these moderate Arab leaders."

Ruwe recalled, however, that Nixon would make a report to Haig on his findings. Asked whether the proposed sale of Airborne Warning and Control Systems planes to Saudi Arabia was part of his discussion with the Saudi leaders, Ruwe said: "They weren't talking about Piper Cubs. Yes, AWACS were discussed, and the Middle East after Sadat."

Nixon arranged the trips while still in the United States, after learning he would be part of the U.S. delegation, Ruwe said, responding in each case to open invitations. Emmons said facilities accorded Nixon by the U.S. Embassy were standard procedure for a former president, including a direct line from the embassy switchboard to Nixon's Crillon suite and embassy officials to handle logistics for Nixon, Ruwe and Nixon's Secret Service detail.

Nixon warned that refusal by the United States to sell AWACS planes to Saudi Arabia could "cool" the friendship between the United States and the countries he visited.

"There can be no settlement of the Mideast dispute without the enthusiastic support of these moderate Arab countries," he added.

After noting that all the leaders he met expressed belief that the Camp David autonomy talks will fail to bring progress on the "Palestinian issue," Nixon said:

"They all believe the United States must at some point enter into talks with the Palestine Liberation Organization. In this respect I would point out Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is in a difficult position. On one hand, if he abandons Camp David he betrays his country by not getting back the Sinai. On the other hand, if he goes forward on Camp David he risks betraying his Arab brothers unless substantial progress is made on the Palestinian issue."

Direct talks with the PLO will be "inevitable" unless progress comes out of the Camp David talks, Nixon reiterated, and this should be "an incentive for Israel to negotiate on Palestinian autonomy in the Camp David process."

In the meantime, he said, the United States should persist in refusal to negotiate with the PLO, while at the same time opening the way for European allies to do so to avoid leaving a vacuum "if Camp David fails to produce progress on Palestinian rights."

Nixon called Qaddafi "more than just a desert rat," also "an international outlaw."

Libya is the third-largest source of U.S. oil imports, after Saudi Arabia and Nigeria. Nixon said the United States is "moving in that direction" of boycotting Libyan oil and should encourage Japan and NATO allies to do the same.

At the same time, he went on, the United States should make it clear that, despite the fate of Sadat and the shah of Iran, it is not dangerous to be a friend of the United States. To do so, Nixon suggested military and economic aid programs to relieve internal pressures in "target nations like the Sudan."