Philip C. Habib, President Reagan's special envoy for Central America, announced his resignation yesterday, and State Department and congressional sources said he acted after the administration rejected his call for immediate, high-level U.S. involvement in peace talks between Nicaragua and its neighbors.

According to the sources, Habib, picking up on a suggestion made by Secretary of State George P. Shultz last week, had recommended that he go immediately to Central America and commit the United States to participation in the peace initiative agreed to Aug. 7 by Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica and Guatemala.

However, the sources continued, the White House overruled his advice and ordered him to remain here. In reaching that decision, the sources said, senior administration policy-makers were influenced primarily by three factors:Concern about whether some aspects of the Central American plan are contrary to U.S. interests because they do not adequately address American goals of ending Cuban and Soviet influence in Nicaragua and bringing about pluralistic democracy in that country. A parallel concern that embracing the Central American initiative too closely at this time might prejudice chances for getting the Central Americans to accept features of a U.S. initiative worked out in collaboration with House Speaker Jim Wright (D-Tex.). That plan is preferred by the administration because it contains greater safeguards against communist aid to Nicaragua and it opens the way to possibly greater congressional support in the event peace negotiations fail and Reagan seeks renewed backing for contras fighting Nicaragua's Sandinista government. A desire to placate Republican conservatives who believe that support of the contras should remain the principal aspect of U.S. policy toward Nicaragua and who suspect that Habib's emphasis on a negotiated solution would lead to a sellout of the contras.

In line with those concerns, the State Department yesterday prefaced announcement of Habib's abrupt departure by revealing plans for consultations and other steps to deal with the Central American initiative.

However, unlike the activist approach reportedly advocated by Habib, the administration's strategy, beginning with a meeting here Monday of U.S. ambassadors to the five countries, envisions a far more cautious, step-by-step scenario permitting the United States to buy time and maintain some distance from the Central American talks until there is a clearer picture of where they seem to be going.

Department spokesman Charles E. Redman, describing the administration's thinking about whether to join the peace talks or seek renewed funding for the contras, said he did not "want to speculate as to what action the president might take at a later date," and he also stressed that the administration wants to avoid "any irreversible actions" for the time being.

Habib, who had cleared out of his State Department office before the announcement of his resignation, could not be reached for comment. However, sources familiar with his thinking said he had been angered by his exclusion from the negotiations conducted with Wright by Shultz and White House chief of staff Howard H. Baker Jr.

Once the Reagan-Wright initiative was revealed, Habib initially seemed to have been singled out as one its potentially major players. At an Aug. 6 news conference, Shultz made a strong plea for regional negotiations and added: "Phil Habib is, of course, one of our most able and experienced diplomats. And he is prepared to be as helpful as he can."

According to the sources, Habib urged that he be sent to the area as soon as possible. For much of the past week State Department officials predicted that would be the case. However, the sources said, after the White House opted for greater caution, Habib told Shultz that he believed the administration had adopted a misguided strategy and that he felt obliged to leave.

The upshot was that Redman, after reading a long statement about the administration's Central America plans, concluded by saying: "With the signing of the {Central American} agreement and the adoption of the bipartisan, Reagan-Wright plan, Ambassador Habib has decided that this is an appropriate moment for him to return to private life."

Habib, 67, began his Foreign Service career in 1949 and served most recently as presidential envoy for the Philippines in 1986 before being named special envoy for Central America the same year. He was Reagan's personal representative for the Middle East from 1981 to 1983.

Redman said that the review here Monday by U.S. ambassadors to Central America will allow the diplomats to better observe and assess events when foreign ministers from the region meet in San Salvador next Wednesday and Thursday to begin work on their initiative. He added that the United States will provide $1 million, already authorized by Congress, to help pay for regional negotiations, and he urged that "other governments' foreign political organizations and private foundations use their influence, as well as their financial resources, to assist the Nicaraguan opposition at this critical juncture."