BAGHDAD, IRAQ, NOV. 12 -- A senior Iraqi official said today that his government has not flatly rejected a proposal by King Hassan II of Morocco for an Arab summit meeting but wants the Arab-Israeli conflict included in the agenda, in addition to the Persian Gulf crisis.

"You can read it as a qualified rejection or a qualified acceptance, depending on how they {other Arab nations} will react. It is not a flat no," the official said in explaining Iraq's response to Hassan's call Sunday for the meeting. The Moroccan monarch described his initiative as a "last chance" for peace.

Because of Iraq's ambiguous response, the decisive voice in whether the meeting will take place appeared likely to be that of Saudi Arabia. But the Saudi government today publicly ignored Hassan's impassioned plea for the meeting, which was not reported by any of the kingdom's newspapers or its state-run television channels, Washington Post correspondent Caryle Murphy reported from Jiddah.

"We're baffled, honestly," by Hassan's initiative, a Kuwaiti minister told Murphy. "Nobody could tell what was going on. Nobody's been consulted," added the minister, who keeps in close touch with the Saudi and other gulf governments.

This latest Arab diplomatic initiative surfaced after President Bush's announcement Thursday that he planned nearly to double the number of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, so that American forces would be sufficient to take the offensive and drive Iraq from Kuwait. Until the summit was suggested, the Iraqi official said, there had been "a standstill" on the diplomatic front, despite a flurry of visits by prominent politicians to Baghdad aimed at defusing tension over Iraq's takeover of Kuwait. The Iraqi official said there had been "some signals" as a result of these contacts, but "nothing substantive."

In explaining Iraq's position on the Moroccan initiative, the senior official referred to a statement issued late Sunday by Iraq's ruling Revolutionary Command Council, which met into the night to discuss the issue. The late session was seen as one indication that the Iraqi leadership was giving serious consideration to Hassan's proposal.

The council's statement said that if Arab leaders decide to act on Hassan's proposal, Iraq ought to be consulted "seriously and with extreme care" ahead of time on the agenda and venue, to ease Iraq's fears that the summit could set the stage for an "American-Zionist" attack against it. The statement reiterated Iraq's past arguments that resolution of the gulf crisis should be tied to a settlement of the Palestinian issue.

"Focusing on the so-called gulf crisis only . . . in separation from the Palestine issue disassociates the outcome from the cause and diverts the discussion away from its natural course," said the council's communique, which was published in Iraqi newspapers this morning. The statement also warned that "the conference should not be held under the pressure and threats of foreign forces violating the Arabs' and Moslems' holy places."

The official explained: "It is not a rejection in principle, but the idea is if you jump into it without adequate preparation, it will be more devisive and counterproductive. In practical terms, there should be discussions between the parties involved."

But it remained unclear from the senior official's comments whether Iraq was yet prepared to compromise on the substantive issues that have thus far blocked serious negotiations. In his public statements, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has balked at the United Nations' demand that he withdraw Iraqi troops from Kuwait. He has discussed pulling out his troops only in the context of an overall Middle East settlement that included Israeli withdrawal from the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

"We do not want linkage . . . but a comprehensive approach to problems in the region," the official said. "I don't think the question is Kuwait."

Hassan's proposal appeared to include some linkage with the Arab-Israeli conflict. "We want to find a way leading to an overall Arab platform to clear the air and find a solution to the present problem and to the Arab cause for the liberation of the occupied territories, including Jerusalem," the Moroccan leader said in his address Sunday.

Hassan has close ties to Saudi Arabia's King Fahd, and Morocco was among the first Arab states to send troops to the U.S.-led multinational force being gathered in the gulf region to oppose any further military moves by Iraq. But he has been more willing than many other leaders to meet Baghdad's demand that its occupation of Kuwait be discussed in the wider context of regional "security" issues.

Saudi Arabia has maintained that the issue of Kuwait cannot be linked to the Palestinian question. The Saudis have argued that after Iraq has withdrawn from Kuwait, Israel's occupation of the territories should be urgently addressed.

The United States also has rejected direct linkage of the issues, but President Bush has said that Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait would offer "new opportunities" for resolution of wider Middle East conflicts. Egypt has also said negotiations cannot take place before Iraq withdraws.

A spokesman for Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak said today that Cairo is "waiting to see the reaction of other countries" before replying to Hassan's plea. Mubarak said a few weeks ago that unless Iraq was willing to withdraw from Kuwait, any Arab conference would be a "summit of insults."

Saudi officials may be waiting to hear from Chinese Foreign Minister Qian Qichen, who was expected to arrive in Saudi Arabia tonight from Baghdad, some observers said. Qian, the first minister to visit Iraq from one of the five countries that sits on the U.N. Security Council, met with Saddam earlier today and called his talks with the Iraqi leader and other officials "fruitful and constructive," Reuter reported.

Qian expressed support for Hassan's call for a summit, but said he had no proposals of his own to avoid war. He insisted that the crisis was an Arab affair that should be settled by Arab leaders.

The Chinese minister dodged a question on whether China would veto a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for military force to free Kuwait. "As far as I know there is no such draft resolution yet," he told a press conference. Qian had indicated last week after meeting with Secretary of State James A. Baker III that China would not block a new U.N. resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq.

Diplomats who have served in the Middle East for many years predicted that Saddam would be willing to compromise only if he can show face-saving gains.

In Tokyo, U.N. Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar was quoted as saying that it was now "difficult to hope for a peaceful solution," the Reuter news agency reported. Japanese Foreign Ministry officials said the secretary general -- in Japan for the enthronement of Emperor Akihito -- made the remark during a meeting with Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu. "We have tried all we would, including {negotiating} the liberation of the so-called hostages," Perez de Cuellar was quoted as saying. "There is not much room left for maneuver."

In Jordan, an unidentified official welcomed Hassan's call, but added, "Despite the fact that the Iraqi position is a bit of a hard-line one, the most important thing is how the gulf countries react to Morocco's call."

An official Moroccan source said his government expected its neighbors -- Algeria, Libya and Tunisia -- to attend.

The Palestine Liberation Organization endorsed the idea but Chairman Yasser Arafat said in Baghdad that "time is needed to get the right preparation."