ALGERIA and Jordan have launched efforts to mend the rift in the Arab world created by the Gulf crisis and to ensure that talks between the United States and Iraq will produce substantive results. The flurry of inter-Arab diplomatic activities reflects concerns that the US-Iraqi dialogue might collapse and war become inevitable, unless the major Arab protagonists - Saudi Arabia and Iraq - appear headed toward an agreement.
On its own, the US dialogue would only lead to military confrontation, Jordanian officials said this week, because of the cool US attitude toward negotiations. Their warning followed talks between Jordan's King Hussein and Algerian President Chadli Benjedid.
``Certain Arab countries were saying that a solution to the crisis was possible only through Iraqi-American dialogue, while they know such dialogue will only lead to a military action,'' Jordanian Prime Minister Mudar Badran said.
The current campaign therefore mainly involves mediation efforts between Baghdad and Riyadh, including consultations that would lay the groundwork for a compromise solution for the Gulf crisis.
A preliminary agreement for a compromise over Kuwait, which Iraq invaded in August, would provide more space for negotiations when Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz goes to Washington for talks with US leaders, senior Arab officials say.
So far the US has brushed aside prospects for negotiations with Iraq, but the Arab officials believe that Washington would have to reconsider its stance if Baghdad and Riyadh start serious talks.
Saudi position unclear
Political analysts here still question Riyadh's readiness to take a major step toward a compromise with Baghdad without the consent of the US. Indeed, statements made by Saudi officials indicate that the success of the mediation efforts completely depends on Iraq's willingness to withdraw from Kuwait.
Mr. Benjedid, who just completed a short visit to Baghdad, is said to be trying to work out an Iraqi offer to the Saudis, which would pave the way for an Iraqi-Saudi summit. Before he started his mission, he consulted with an adviser of Saudi King Fahd in Algeria.
Riyadh made it clear as Benjedid embarked on his trip that it only receive him if he had something to deliver.
Although the Saudis have publicly been insisting that talks with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein were only possible after a complete Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait, well-informed Arab diplomats say the Saudis would accept a promise or a statement of intention - delivered by Benjedid - that Baghdad will withdraw from Kuwait.
Benjedid would also have to secure guarantees from Iraq that it has no plans to attack Saudi territories. Saddam has so far seemed to be ready to agree to this condition, in an attempt to distance Riyadh from US influence.
Benjedid will seek an Arab agreement on a compromise solution, the diplomats say, involving an Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait in return for guarantees for Iraq's economic and security interests. He will also rally support for an Arab public endorsement of some form of linkage between the efforts to solve the Gulf crisis and the settlement of the Israeli Arab conflict.
King Hussein last Sunday proposed that an international conference on the Arab-Israeli conflict be convened simultaneously with an Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait in compliance with the United Nations Security Council resolutions.
Most Arab countries have not reacted to the Jordanian proposal, which is considered to be the first suggested Arab mechanism for linking the Gulf crisis to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Algeria pushes proposal
During his diplomatic tour, which is to include Iran, Syria, Oman, and Saudi Arabia, Benjedid will suggest that Hussein's proposal be endorsed as one means of securing Iraqi acceptance of a compromise over Kuwait and of ensuring a settlement of the Palestinian problem, the diplomats said.
Earlier this week, Jordan implied that some Arab countries were succumbing to pressures and influence by the US and other outside powers.
``There is foreign planning to hinder Arab-Arab dialogue and some of our Arab brothers are going along,'' Mr. Badran told the Jordanian parliament.
Both Jordan and Algeria, however, remain determined to recapture the political initiative and make one last effort to reach an Arab solution of the crisis, Arab diplomats say.
The Jordanian government, according to local journalists, has already asked the press to tone down criticism of the Gulf states so that Jordan can play a mediating role and so that the success of the Arab dialogue will not be endangered.