AMMAN, JORDAN, NOV. 6 -- Jordan's King Hussein, in an opening address to an Arab summit here on Sunday, will state that the return of Egypt to the Arab fold is "one of the most important issues" facing Arab leaders gathered here.
A senior conference official, briefing reporters in advance of the summit, asserted that Syria's opposition to such a move might be overcome by strong sentiment among gulf Arab leaders that Egypt's military power is urgently needed to counter the growing threat from Iran in the Persian Gulf war.
"Egypt is developing as a major issue," the official said, adding that in recent days senior officials in Iraq, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Morocco have called for the restoration of relations with Egypt.
The official suggested that a resolution to return Egypt to the Arab fold might not require the unanimous support of Arab heads of state under Arab League rules since the vote to suspend Egypt during a 1979 Arab summit in Baghdad was similarly not unanimous.
A call by the summit's host for Egypt's reinstatement is significant because it indicates the strongest commitment to date to put the question officially on the summit agenda.
Egyptian officials in Cairo said earlier this week that they did not expect a high-profile effort by summit leaders to be reconciled with Egypt, which was suspended from the Arab League after it concluded a separate peace with Israel under the Camp David accords.
Rather, the Egyptian leadership said it had received assurances through diplomatic channels that a number of Arab countries intend to reestablish bilateral relations within weeks after the summit. Jordan reestablished relations with Egypt in 1984.
In preparation for the conference, an entire quadrant of Jordan's capital has been cordoned off around the conference center and guest quarters for the heads of state. Jordanian troops manned machine guns and armored cars along the streets of the capital.
Saudi Arabia, which pushed harder than any other country to convene the summit, according to the conference official, has withdrawn its demand for severing relations with Iran in retaliation for Iranian rioting during last summer's pilgrimage at Mecca and for Iranian missile attacks on Kuwait.
"The severing of relations with Iran is not really on the table anymore," the official said. "Some Arab countries are afraid that going that far is like declaring war or cutting all lines of communication, and they do not want to do that."
Instead, the conference official said, Arab leaders will concentrate on a compromise resolution in support of July's U.N. cease-fire resolution. The resolution would also reaffirm Arab support for Iraq, Kuwait and the defense of Arab territory occupied or attacked by Iranian forces.
In a statement to reporters today, Jordanian Foreign Minister Taher Masri said the consequences of failure for this summit would be "tremendous."
"Already, collective Arab action is weakening day by day," Masri said. "Public opinion is demanding that something be done, and the dangers are increasing all the time."
Masri, who will act as the summit's official spokesman, warned that if Iraq falls to Iranian aggression, "the gulf will fall." He added that the "social conflict" taking place in Arab societies because of Iranian-inspired Islamic fundamentalism is "very, very dangerous" to Arab regimes.
"We want to stop the deterioration," Masri said, "but even this summit might be a bit late."
The decision by Saudi Arabia's King Fahd not to attend the summit has sparked considerable speculation by officials here. The Saudis privately have told some Arab leaders that a chronic leg problem has prevented Fahd's attendance, but one knowledgeable Arab official said that Fahd may want to avoid a summit that will seek to condemn Iran and restore ties with Egypt -- both over Syrian opposition.
The conference official said that Saudi officials have assured King Hussein that Fahd's emissary to the summit, Crown Prince Abdullah, will carry a "full mandate" to speak for the kingdom.
Abdullah has a strong rapport with Syrian President Hafez Assad, whose support for non-Arab Iran in the gulf war and whose opposition to Egypt will be the major obstacles the summit majority will encounter.
One well-placed Arab official said that Saudi Arabia has indicated in recent weeks that it may use its multimillion-dollar annual subsidy to Syria as leverage against any opposition Assad may present.
Historically, however, the Saudis have avoided antagonizing Damascus, and other Arab officials discounted the possibility that the Saudis would use the funds as an arm-twisting ploy.
The summit official said the issues of the gulf war, Egypt and financial aid from the wealthy gulf Arab states will be "interlocked," indicating that Saudi Arabia and other wealthy gulf states such as Kuwait will seek to make the most of their financial leverage in shaping the summit's outcome.
The official said Syria is expected to push a proposal condemning the buildup of U.S. and western naval forces in the gulf and that this would result in "complicated and nasty" negotiations over the wording of the summit's final communique.
Another issue will be a joint stand on the Middle East peace process. King Hussein will seek a full endorsement for convening an international peace conference, the summit official said.
One of the important sideshows to the summit will be the attendance of Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat, who has not been in Amman since he split with King Hussein in February 1986 over a joint negotiating strategy to set up a Palestinian state confederated with Jordan.
Arafat is expected to focus his energies on mending his relations with Hussein and Syria's Assad, who has tried repeatedly to end Arafat's leadership of the Palestinian movement.