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Succession for the Sudan

THE American posture in the wake of the coup in Sudan should be to support the new government of Gen. Abdel-Rahman Swareddahab during a period of transition to the promised restoration of civilian rule. In return, the US should insist on orderly and expeditious progression from military to civilian leadership; military rule can be supported only as a short-term means of restoring order. General Swareddahab faces a daunting task in dealing with his nation's many problems, from rebellion to hunger to a shattered economy. One evidence of the complexity of the task was Monday's initially defiant march by union leaders demanding that the general swiftly surrender power to civilian rule; he has said he will do so in six months. However, the general's rule was quickly strengthened when the marchers subsequently dispersed peacefully and -- according to the state-run radio -- the labor unions called off the general strike that had snarled the capital of Khartoum for days.

The weekend overthrow of the Sudan's autocratic and quixotic leader, Jaafar Nemeiry, opens the way for relatively swift resolution of the nation's most serious problem, the rebellion in the south. The United States should continue with its plan to release $181 million in foreign aid money to the Sudan, announced during Nemeiry's visit to Washington last week -- provided General Swareddahab agrees to try in the near future to negotiate an end to the revolt. A cessation of hostilities ought to be feasible: Principal aim of the rebellion was to get rid of Nemeiry, a step now accomplished.

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It is to be hoped that General Swareddahab can consolidate his control sufficiently to attack the Sudan's serious economic problems, one of which is lack of a commodity that can be marketed overseas to bring in sizable amounts of foreign exchange. Over time, settlement of the southern rebellion might solve that problem, inasmuch as peace in the south could permit development of oil fields recently discovered there.

Other issues confront General Swareddahab: food shortages among western Sudanese, as well as among the nearly 2 million hungry refugees from Ethiopia and Chad; and potential opposition from urban residents who rioted in protest of Mr. Nemeiry's decision to deal with domestic economic difficulties by raising prices, under pressure from Washington and the International Monetary Fund. It would be preferable in the long run if the general is able to make the price rises stick. ----30{et

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