Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, taking advantage of the first visit here by Jordan's King Hussein in eight years, made an emotional appeal today for the Arab world to set aside its differences and join in forging a unified position toward negotiations with Israel over the Palestinian issue.
Implicit in Mubarak's appeal, made in a speech to the parliament, was a call on the 16 other Arab states that broke diplomatic ties with Egypt in protest of its 1979 peace treaty with Israel to follow the recent example of Jordan in restoring them for the sake of Arab unity.
But Hussein, in a note of discord, criticized the U.S.-sponsored Camp David accords signed in 1978 that led to the peace treaty. He told the Egyptian deputies he had rejected the accords from the start, because they excluded the Palestine Liberation Organization from negotiations over the future status of the occupied territories and because Israeli-occupied land was restored to Egypt but not to Jordan.
Hussein's comments were greeted by a stony silence from the Egyptian parliament.
Later, at a wreath-laying ceremony at the tomb of Egypt's unknown soldier, Hussein pointedly avoided stopping at the nearby grave of the late president Anwar Sadat, who negotiated the accords for Egypt.
Mubarak called Hussein's return here part of a new "trend of solidarity" meant as a message to all other Arab capitals that "whatever the differences in ideology of any Arab country, the wounds of all injuries should be healed."
"We should embark upon a dialogue of ideas and proceed along one front and on one course and realize that time is leading us into darkness," he said.
"Why don't we just sit around the same table? Why don't we all be frank with each other?" he asked, reflecting the general frustration here with the slow pace of Egypt's diplomatic reintegration into the Arab world.
Answering Arab critics of the rapprochement between Jordan and Egypt, Mubarak said he was not adopting an "axis policy" -- taking sides with "one front against another" in the Arab world.
"Axes mean differences, but we are calling for Arab solidarity and unification. Axes mean a call for more rifts and more conflict, but we are calling for unification and unity," he said in one of his strongest speeches on this subject since he came to power three years ago.
Syria and Libya have been the main critics of Hussein's decision Sept. 25 to reestablish ties with Cairo without waiting for an Arab League decision on the matter. They contend that Jordan, with the backing of Egypt and Iraq, is planning first to strike a deal with the Palestinians and then to open direct negotiations with Israel, just as Egypt did.
Both Mubarak and Hussein stressed in their speeches the need for quick action by the Arabs before Israel annexes the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
They also expressed common satisfaction with the outcome of the meeting last week in Amman of the Palestine National Council, the PLO's "parliament in exile." It reaffirmed the Syrian-challenged leadership of Yasser Arafat as chairman of the PLO and mandated him both to continue talks with Hussein on a joint Jordanian-Palestinian initiative and to improve relations with Egypt.
Hussein outlined to the Egyptian parliament his plan presented last week to the council's session as a basis for a joint Jordanian-Palestinian initiative.
It calls for an international conference under U.N. auspices on the basis of the principles of Israel returning the seized lands in return for peace with its Arab neighbors, U.N. Resolution 242 and the participation of the PLO in any negotiations on an equal footing with other parties.
The Palestine National Council has rejected Resolution 242 because it treats the Palestinian issue only as a refugee problem and says nothing about a homeland.
Mubarak took mild exception to Hussein's insistence on an international conference under U.N. auspices. He is known to be skeptical about it because of Israel's announced rejection of it and Washington's lack of enthusiasm for it.
While calling Hussein's plan a "positive contribution," Mubarak noted that Hussein had said it was "not imposed on anybody, and the dialogue is open to all." Egypt, Mubarak said, had supported other Middle East peace initiatives in the past and its only "reservation" about them had been that they were not "workable."