AMMAN, JORDAN, NOV. 10 -- Arab heads of state cleared the way today for as many as seven Arab nations to resume diplomatic relations with Egypt in coming weeks, according to Arab League officials, and tentatively agreed to issue a carefully balanced statement on the Persian Gulf war on Wednesday at the conclusion of their four-day summit meeting here.
A number of Arab and summit officials, however, already were declaring the summit conference a remarkable success for having achieved the first stage of rapprochement between the Arab world's most bitter rivals, Syrian President Hafez Assad and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
The two have met continuously over three days with other Arab leaders, stating their opposing views on issues such as Syria's support for Iran and Egypt's return to the Arab fold, from which it was expelled following its separate peace with Israel. But both leaders have kept talking and have shown a new flexibility in their positions, summit sources said.
Assad and Saddam Hussein met last April for 12 hours of talks at a remote airstrip in Jordan, but both leaders said afterward that neither side was willing to budge on the issues of war and regional politics that separate them.
At last night's banquet of summit leaders, the two exchanged pleasantries and chatted informally in a way that has fueled optimism within the 21 Arab League delegations represented here, the officials said.
A summit spokesman, referring to the Assad-Saddam Hussein discussions, told reporters today, "It can be said that this meeting . . . promises a positive start to a new era of brotherly relations between Syria and Iraq."
Summit officials cautioned that there remains a difficult task of drafting a document tonight and Wednesday morning that will win final approval at the closing session of the summit.
"Anything can still happen," one official said, "but all the signs are very optimistic."
The most difficult issue is a resolution on the Persian Gulf war that supports the Iraqi effort and condemns recent attacks on Kuwait, sources said, while not antagonizing Syria, which is seeking language that calls for withdrawal of U.S. and western naval fleets from the gulf.
Syria supports Iran's war effort and is not expected to give up that support as a result of this summit. But any movement by Syria toward a stronger position of pushing Iran to the negotiating table would help the overall international effort to end the war, summit officials say.
The conflict between Syria's position and that of Iraq and the Arab gulf states has prompted summit officials to predict that the final communique will take a minimal position, perhaps endorsing a U.N. cease-fire resolution and the continuing efforts of the Security Council to bring the warring parties to the negotiating table.
"We believe that a minimal resolution is better than no resolution at all," one official said.
Barring a breakdown overnight, the importance of this Arab League summit will rest on the new working relationship between Damascus and Baghdad and the major advance of Cairo in its bid for reintegration into the Arab fold, officials said.
Syria, in a statement released today, criticized any attempt to return Egypt to the Arab League.
"Can we really consider Egypt's readmission into the league when the Israeli flag waves in Cairo from an Israeli Embassy?" Syria asked.
But summit officials said Syria has agreed not to interfere with plans by Iraq, Morocco, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and perhaps Tunisia to restore relations with Egypt.
A number of gulf countries have expressed a strong desire to normalize relations with Egypt as a counterweight to Iran, but have hesitated to do so out of apprehension over coming under attack from Syria, Libya, South Yemen and Algeria, the so-called confrontation states.
In recent months, Egyptian leaders have been discussing greater economic and military cooperation with gulf states to bolster their defenses against Iran.
Syria's informal assurances at this summit meeting have legitimized the notion that each Arab state can go forward on a country-to-country basis to reestablish relations with Egypt.
Syria has put the summit on notice that it will continue to oppose publicly Egypt's full reentry into the Arab fold until it foresakes the 1979 peace treaty with Israel, which was the major factor prompting the Arab world's break with Cairo.
Bahrain already has asked Jordanian officials about the procedures Jordan followed in September 1984 when it renewed diplomatic relations with Cairo, one official here said.
A key element in Syria's willingness to cooperate with an Arab majority at the conference has been Syria's desire not to isolate itself further in the Arab world and to secure pledges from the gulf states to continue financing Syria's severely strained economy.
There were reports here today that Saudi Arabia has pledged a massive new infusion of cash into Syria's economy as an incentive to Assad's cooperation, but other sources said the Saudis and the Kuwaitis have left their financial aid program, which expires next year, open to ensure ongoing cooperation.
The summit is expected to call for annual meetings of heads of state to deal with financial and political questions as a new enforcement tool for Arab cooperation.
King Hussein, the summit's host, is expected to hold a news conference Wednesday to release the summit's communique.