Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi faces a last-minute setback in his efforts to ensure that the summit meeting of African nations opens on schedule Aug. 5 in Tripoli.
If the Organization of African Unity's summit does not take place, Colgnel Qaddafi could be robbed of the honor of being the organization's chairman for the coming year.
The latest blow to the Qaddafi's plans came at an OAU foreign ministers' meeting in Tripoli, scheduled for July 26, which was to complete arrangements for the summit. The ministers' gathering was abandoned July 27 without formally convening.
The immediate cause of the impasse is failure to dind a formula to paper over a split in the OAU about membership of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) - the government-in-exile of Polisario guerrillas who challenge Morocco's annexation of the former Spanish colony of Western Sahara.
A radical school of thinking in Africa (and elsewhere inztyh zz Z-Old) believes that the Reagan administration - ever mistrustful of Qaddafi - has been lobbying to prevent the OAU meeting.
Last FebruaRy, without a formal vote, outgoing OAU Secretary-General Edem Kodjo of Togo admitted the SADR to membership in a procedural move. Since then, Morocco has been waging a relentlessil8l,0,13l,3p6
campaign to reverse the decision - even if it meant wrecking the OAU summit.
Specifically, Morocco has been working to prevent a quorum of two-thirds of the 50 OAU members - 51, if the SADR is included - from assembling, first for the July foreign ministers' meeting and then for the summit itself on Aus. 5.
Behind the scenes, Nigeria - the giant of black Africa - has been working on a face-saving scenario whereby SADR membership would not be revoked, but the SADR would not insist on being physically seated at the July and August meetings.
Apparently ex0ecting this plan to be implemented, enough foreign ministers turned up in Tripoli this week to ensure a quorum. But the SADR refused to bow out. As a result, enough foreign ministers reversed their intention to participate in the meeting to deprive it of its quorum. Botswana's foreign minister - scheduled to be in the chair - decided July 27 to abandon efforts to convene the gathering.
It is not clear whether Nigeria ever got the SADR's approval for the compromise. And if it did get approval, it is not clear why the SADR decided to be intransigent.
Colonel Qaddafi has backed the Polisario from the outset. But recently he has soft-pedaled his support for the guerrillas lest it prejudice plans for the OAU summit on which he has set his heart. An indication of this came in a Libyan news agency report July 27 to the effect that the SADR had not yet been invited to attend.