Syria, vehemently underscoring its rejection of the Lebanese-Israeli troop withdrawal accord, said today that it would not receive special U.S. envoy Philip C. Habib "because we have nothing to discuss with him."
The rebuff, announced by SANA, the official Syrian news agency, came just hours before Habib arrived here for the difficult U.S. mission of securing Syria's agreement to withdraw its soldiers from Lebanon. The official announcement said Syria was especially opposed to seeing Habib "because he is one of the most hostile American officials to the Arabs and their causes."
Later, state-run Damascus radio attacked President Reagan for saying at a press conference in Washington last night that he thought the Syrians would "stick to their word" and pull their troops out of Lebanon.
Reagan spoke of Syria "as though he was speaking of the Nevada desert or California," an afternoon commentary on Damascus radio chafed, "as though he possesses the right of decision-making in Syria or can dictate his will on it."
Syria's refusal to leave would undo the Lebanese-Israeli agreement worked out in four months of arduous negotiations. Israel has made clear it will not withdraw its soldiers if Syria and the Palestine Liberation Organization do not do so.
Despite Syria's rejection of the accord and veiled threats to go to battle with Israel or aid Lebanese forces who may be embarked on fomenting a new civil war, both American and Lebanese officials have tended to regard the talk as more bluff than warning.
After Secretary of State George P. Shultz met with Syrian President Hafez Assad on May 7 and heard Syrian objections, however, the one gain he seemed to feel he had won from the four-hour session was Syrian assent to keep the door open for further discussions with U.S. representatives and with Lebanon.
But Syria, saying the peace accord with Israel infringes on Lebanon's sovereignty and threatens Syria's security, indicated in official pronouncements today that it would not be swayed by the Americans. It also slammed the door on Lebanon's offers of negotiations on Syria's conditions for troop withdrawal.
At the same time, Libya, the only other Arab state on record as being opposed to the accords, confirmed through its embassy here that it has recalled its ambassador from Beirut and asked the Lebanese ambassador in Tripoli to leave because of Lebanon's "agreement of shame" with Israel.
The official Libyan news agency added that Libya has asked the Arab League to impose the same economic and political sanctions against Lebanon that it did against Egypt after the signing of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty in 1979.
That isolation would be far more devastating for Lebanon, heavily dependent on other Arab states for trade, than it was for Egypt, which has strongly endorsed the Lebanese-Israeli agreement.
Egypt-Air landed its first plane in Beirut in more than four years today as it resumed regular Lebanese service, Agence France-Presse reported. The company suspended Beirut service when the 1979 Arab summit in Baghdad broke off all relations with Egypt but Lebanon's Middle East Airlines had maintained service to Cairo.
Indications now are that the Arab League would be unlikely to impose a boycott against Lebanon. The decision of Lebanon to sign the agreement has not brought the kind of outcry that followed Egypt's signing of the peace treaty with Israel.
Lebanon, strongly backed by the United States, resisted Israel's demands for a full peace treaty and for security arrangements that would have permitted a fixed Israeli military presence on Lebanon's soil. Much of this resistance was guided by Lebanon's concern about its relations with the Arab world.
When Lebanese President Amin Gemayel sent envoys to Arab states in North Africa and the Persian Gulf last week he reportedly found substantial private backing. But until Sudan announced support today, only Egypt, Algeria and Saudi Arabia had declared their backing publicly and the last two were vague and guarded.
Sudanese President Jaafar Nimeri said his country "fully supports" Gemayel and the Lebanese people "for the strenuous efforts they have exerted for the restoration of peace to Lebanon," Reuter reported, quoting SUNA, the official Sudanese news agency. Nimeri called on the PLO and Arab states to support Lebanon and harshly attacked Syria for rejecting the accord, saying Syria had done so because it considered the agreement "a major obstacle against its colonialist designs in Lebanon."
The Lebanese remain confident that they can marshal the support of moderate Arabs or not be the target of their reprisals. And they have been telling diplomats here that they are confident they will eventually be able to work things out with Syria.
Because of their common Arab culture and history, the Lebanese say, they understand the Syrians and know how to talk to them. They predict that the task will be easier than the negotiations with the Israelis, whom they understood far less well.