ALEXANDRIA, Egypt — Assistant Secretary of State Richard W. Murphy met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Saturday for what he called "useful and productive" talks on efforts to initiate a new round of Arab-Israeli peace negotiations.
Afterward, Murphy returned unexpectedly to Amman, Jordan, where news agencies reported that he met Saturday night with Prime Minister Zaid Rifai and is scheduled to confer today with King Hussein.
True to the form of his style of diplomacy, Murphy refused to discuss details of his talks here or to disclose where he planned to go next. The semiofficial Egyptian newspaper Al Ahram speculated that he would also go to Syria before returning to Washington. Syria adamantly opposes the current peace efforts, which focus on attempts to encourage talks between Jordan and Israel.
No Plans for Meeting
Hussein is understood to have wanted Murphy to return to Amman, where proposed members of a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation are hoping to meet with him. But Rifai, who held a press conference in Amman while Murphy was meeting with Mubarak here, said the U.S. envoy will not meet with the delegation during his current trip.
Murphy met for 80 minutes with Mubarak and afterward held a 45-minute session with Foreign Minister Esmat Abdel Meguid.
Speaking briefly with reporters after his session with Mubarak, Murphy said they held "useful and productive talks on problems of the moment . . . peace issues and our bilateral relationship," which he characterized as being "in sturdy shape."
But when asked about the progress of his earlier talks in Amman and Jerusalem, Murphy replied only that "talks are going on."
Murphy's task on this tour has been to try to narrow the differences between rival Jordanian and Israeli scenarios for peace talks and to establish the conditions and an agenda for a possible meeting between himself and the joint delegation, whose proposed members include several Palestinians associated with the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Suggestion of Progress
There is no indication yet that he has been successful, but extending his tour by returning to Jordan seemed to suggest that some progress is being made, analysts said.
Murphy has come under strong Egyptian and Jordanian pressure to meet with a Jordanian-Palestinian delegation once the United States has approved its composition. Analysts agreed that if he does not do so, it could represent a severe blow to Hussein, who has so far been unsuccessful in winning wider Arab support for his peace initiative.
That initiative, based on a Feb. 11 accord reached with PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, envisions preliminary talks with the United States to be followed by negotiations with Israel for the creation of a confederated Jordanian-Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
'We'll Wait and See'
At an Arab League summit in Morocco last week, Arab leaders told Hussein that they wanted to see results before endorsing the initiative. "We are not going to condemn or endorse it. We are going to wait and see," one senior Arab official said.
Other officials added that the outcome of Murphy's visit could be pivotal in determining whether moderate Arab states give Hussein their support. If there is no progress this time toward a U.S.-Palestinian meeting, the initiative may founder, they predicted.
Israel remains firmly opposed to Murphy's meeting with a Jordanian-Palestinian delegation, fearing that it might represent the first step toward U.S. recognition of the PLO.