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Sudan's leader set to resume ties with Egypt

Sudan's President Jaafar Muhammad Nimeiry says he intends to restore full diplomatic relations with Egypt within the next few weeks. In a March 16 interview with the Monitor, President Nimeiry said he hoped to reintroduce Egypt into the Arab world.

In the course of outlining Sudan's major foreign-policy issues, he also supported the Reagan administration's forceful statements on the threat posed by the Soviet Union in the Horn of Africa, saying the Americans and West Europeans should not only use African facilities, but also lease land and build defense systems.

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The Sudanese leader added that if the United States approached him for the use of Sudanese facilities or training areas, "We would consider it. The door is open."

Regarding Egypt, Mr. Nimeiry indicated Sudan long has been troubled by the need to appease the other Arab states that have condemned Egypt's peace negotiations with Israel -- while at the same time wanting to maintain its traditional close ties with Egypt. Last year, Sudan chose to fall in line with the Arab group, and withdrew its ambassador from Cairo when Egypt began to normalize its relations with Israel.

Now, says President Nimeiry, "Camp David has become and old thing." Sudan, he added, is going to try to "introduce Egypt with a new face to the Arabs."

The Sudanese leader feels that since Egypt has been ostracized from the Arab fold, the Soviet Union has made considerable gains.

"Since Egypt was isolated, the Lebanon problem has escalated, there is the Iraq-Iran war, the Gulf is in a state of threat, and Libya is now against Morocco, Tunisia, and Sudan. The Russians are moving in."

And although he feels Camp David was "not a very good agreement," it can be "a start," or a departure point for new initiatives.

"I did not bring it up in Taif," he says, referring to the recent Arab summit meeting in Saudi Arabia, "but my feelers showed that it was possible."

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The real menance facing Sudan and the Arab and African world, in his opinion, are the Soviets. "This is a time for Libya and those who support Libya," he declares. For him, the situation in Chad is, if anything, more serious then before.

"This is a period of preparation for other operations from Chad, for a mobilization. They [the Libyans] will begin to move to other regions and especially Sudan."

In spite of increasing skepticism by Western observers about the effectiveness of Hissene Habre's rebel forces in Chad, President Nimeiry believes that they are gaining ground.

"Yesterday I heard Hissein Habre killed 65 Libyans, destroyed two vehicles, and captured some weapons in northeastern Chad," he said.

But as for Chad President Goukhouni Woddei and Vice- President Wadal Abdelkadar Kamouge, "I know that they're cooperating with the Libyans."

Sudan's main initiative against Libya has been in the Organization of African States (OAU), but so far there has not been an explicit condemnation of Libyan interference in Chad.

"Yes, I am disappointed in the OAU," says President Nimeiry, "but the chairman of the OAU is moving now on events in Chad. He will visit Sudan next Saturday [March 21] in preparation for the summit meeting in Nairobi in June."

Sudan's relations with its other large Soviet-backed neighbor, Ethiopia, however, have improved considerably in recent months. This is partly due to Sudan's offer to help Ethiopia solve its internal conflicts, based on Sudan's own experiment in granting regional autonomy to southern Sudan.

President Nimeiry has discussed these matters with Ethiopian leader Mengistu Haile Mariam. "I can't say he agreed, but he did agree to cooperate with Sudan, " he said.

But the Soviet presence in Ethiopia is still a threat to the region, and has "forced the Reagan administration to also intensify its presence in the Horn of Africa."

The stepped-up US search for facilities in the Middle East and the Indian Ocean is a "natural" consequence. "What is coming from the US and Europe is just a question of self- defense, and if they ask for any facilities, it is their right," he said.

"They haven't gone far enough. They should ask for more. They shouldn't ask for facilities only, but they should buy areas, and build their own defense systems on it so they are assured."

Would he allow the Americans facilities in the Sudan?

"We will consider it," he says. "If it was in Sudan's interest, and the Sudanese would benefit, we will consider it. The door is open. I'm not saying 'n o.'"

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