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Sudan, faced with internal woes, likely to remain pro-US

The military junta that ousted Sudanese President Jaafar Nimeiry over the weekend will probably maintain the country's pro-Western stance, according to diplomats and analysts in the region. The officers, who seized power in a bloodless coup Saturday, face staggering internal crises. They must tackle widespread famine, an influx of starving refugees from Ethiopia, an economy in chaos, and guerrilla insurgency in the south.

Faced with such a daunting array of problems, they would be unlikely to take steps that might endanger the flow of funds from the United States, Sudan's largest aid supplier, or other Western regimes, analysts say. Gen. Abdul-Rahman Swareddahab, Sudan's new military ruler, issued statements over the weekend that reassured both Egypt and the US.

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Last week the Reagan administration had announced it would free $67 million out of $100 million in economic aid frozen when the United States called on Mr. Nimeiry to take drastic steps for economic reform. The Sudanese need the money to feed an estimated 1 million famine victims.

Meanwhile, Sudan's new military leader has said he wants to improve relations with Egypt, repair the economy, and bring peace to Sudan. Knowledgeable sources said that General Swareddahab had visited Cairo and met with the Egyptian defense minister shortly before the coup. Diplomats in Cairo said Swareddahab is pro-Egyptian and is unlikely to institute radical changes in the nation's foreign policy.

``If the coup had been carried out by young officers, I would definitely look for connections with Libya and Ethiopia. But these were older officers who were getting rid of a man everyone despised,'' said one political analyst.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said Sunday in Cairo that Egypt supports ``any government in Sudan if the Sudanese people want it.'' Mr. Mubarak also warned against any outside interference in Sudan's political affairs, and specifically warned Libya not to intervene. Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi had called for a revolution in Sudan shortly before the coup was announced Saturday morning.

Sudan is of vital strategic interest to Egypt because the waters of the Nile, essential to Egypt's survival, flow through Sudan. The two countries have longstanding political, economic, and military ties.

During his 16-year regime, Nimeiry ``succeeded in angering everybody in Sudan for different reasons,'' said the political analyst, who spoke on condition he not be named.

Nimeiry's presence in Egypt is said to be an embarrassment to the Egyptians, although Mubarak has said the former Sudanese leader may stay as long as he likes.

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The US and Egypt had continued to back Nimeiry, but were uncomfortable with his apparently inept handling of the nation's economic and political woes. Nimeiry also earned the displeasure of the US and Egypt when he instituted strictly interpreted Sharia law, which imposed harsh penalties on Muslims and non-Muslims alike for violation of Islamic law.

``You don't back a loser forever,'' said another political analyst. ``Nimiery was an utter loser.''

The US charg'e d'affaires in Khartoum, David H. Shinn, already has met with Sudanese leader Swareddahab. A State Department official said that the meeting ``went pretty well.''

There is uncertainty, however, about the new regime's stability. The junta is already being challenged by the broad-based coalition of groups that led 10 days of strikes, demonstrations, and riots against Nimeiry before his overthrow.

[The Associated Press reports that the capital city of Khartoum remained largely crippled by strikes. An estimated 5,000 to 7,000 demonstrators marched to the headquarters of the general Armed Forces Command, demanding that the military immediately hand over power to a civilian government.

[In a radio broadcast, Swareddahab issued a warning that workers who did not return immediately to work would be committing ``the highest treason.'' He also said that the military was due to meet the professional workers' unions later Monday to discuss the future of the country.]

On Sunday the junta announced it was arresting members of Nimeiry's government and disbanding the nation's security agency in response to mass demonstrations.

The new regime has said that it will run the government for a six-month interim period before handing it over to a civilian government. It remains to be seen if the military will be able to reach agreement with rebel groups in the south -- the Sudanese People's Liberation Army and the Sudanese People's Liberation Front.

The SPLA announced Sunday that it was suspending guerrilla warfare against government troops in the southern provinces. Col. John Garang, leader of the SPLA, has said that he had met secretly with Army officers before the coup. By Monday night, however, Colonel Garang had made no official statement on the military takeover.

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