Two prominent Arabs called yesterday for a greater U.S. effort to revive the Mideast peace process amid reports that Assistant Secretary of State Richard W. Murphy was having trouble with his mission to the region to find new ways of involving Jordan and the Palestinians in expanded talks.
In a videotaped speech to an Arab League conference here, Jordan's Crown Prince Hassan said there had been "apparent movement" by the Reagan administration, in its recent declaration of willingness to meet a Jordanian-Palestinian delegation. He warned, however, that this "piecemeal approach" to renewed talks was doomed to failure.
"The momentum needs to be increased and the entire process strengthened," he told the conference with a tone of urgency.
Shortly before, Arab League Secretary General Chedli Klibi called on the United States to take advantage of "new positive elements" in the Arab stand toward peace talks and to use its "influence and persuasion to bring about a permanent peaceful settlement, and soon."
Sunday, Secretary of State George P. Shultz called for the Arabs rather than the United States to play a more active role, primarily by backing Jordan's King Hussein in direct talks with Israel.
"Now is the time for the Arabs to let King Hussein come forward," Shultz told the annual meeting here of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. "There is no alternative to direct negotiations."
The indirect exchange between Shultz and the two Arab leaders came as U.S. officials and diplomatic sources acknowledged that Murphy had made no progress in his discussions about the possibility of direct negotiations between Israel and a Jordanian delegation that would include Palestinians who are not members of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
The U.S. officials cautioned that it still is too early to declare Murphy's mission a failure. But they acknowledged that he had nothing specific yet from either side, and they carefully declined to say whether Shultz, who is to visit Israel May 10 for a Holocaust memorial ceremony, would also go to Amman and Cairo, as has been widely expected.
Arab diplomatic sources said King Hussein was still urging the United States to accept known PLO members in the proposed Jordanian-Palestinian delegation as a way of strengthening his hand with the rest of the Arab world and ensuring the success of negotiations.
The United States is sticking to a longstanding commitment to Israel not to negotiate with the PLO until the PLO recognizes the Jewish state's right to exist.
Israeli sources said that Prime Minister Shimon Peres' government, preoccupied with withdrawing troops from Lebanon and halting runaway inflation, is not eager to become involved in a potentially divisive peace initiative now.
The source said the Israelis had told Murphy that if the United States could produce a delegation free of clear-cut PLO associations, Israel would deal with it. But, these sources added, the Israelis also have emphasized that they will make no additional concessions or gestures to facilitate Jordan's entry into the process.
Prince Hassan and Klibi were speaking at the first Arab League conference to be held here on the controversial issue of Israeli settlements on the West Bank of the Jordan River. Also addressing the conference yesterday was former Austrian chancellor Bruno Kreisky, a well-known Palestinian supporter.
Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told the American-Israel group last night that "while the United States remains vitally interested in the process of peace in the region, we cannot control it and we cannot compel the parties to accept it."