KHARTOUM, Sudan — In a move that further damages Sudan's once-close alliance with Egypt and its strategic links to the United States, Sudan announced Monday that it has obtained Libyan aid for armed forces training and logistics.
The accord is the latest improvement in relations between Sudan and Libya since an April 6 Sudanese coup ousted pro-Western President Jaafar Numeiri. Under Numeiri, Sudan broke relations with Libya and signed an integration and mutual defense pact with Egypt, an archfoe of Libyan strongman Moammar Kadafi.
The defense minister of Sudan's new army-supervised government, Maj. Gen. Osman Abdullah Mohammed, signed a military protocol after more than a week in Libya conferring with Kadafi and top Libyan military officials, the state-owned Sudanese newspaper Al Sahafa reported.
The general was quoted as saying the agreement provides for Libyan help with logistics, transport, equipment, training programs and "aspects of navy and air defense." He refused to discuss specifics of the aid or its value, but he did say that Libya will supply transport aircraft and surface-to-air missiles.
In addition, Mohammed said, Libya has stopped supporting Sudanese rebels in the southern part of the country and is making "personal efforts" to try to bring rebel leader John Garang to peace talks.
The general dismissed any suggestion that the accord is a step toward union with Libya.
"Libya has no intention of forming any strategic alliance with Sudan or of interfering in Sudan's domestic and foreign policies," he said.
And in Cairo, Sudanese Ambassador Amin Abdul Latif said the military accord will not affect Sudan's ties to Egypt. "The relationship with Libya will not be at the expense of the special relationship with Egypt."
Ever since the coup that ended Numeiri's 16-year rule, the United States and Egypt have been greatly concerned that the new Sudanese regime could come under Kadafi's influence.
Egypt and Libya fought a border war in 1977 and remain bitter enemies. Cairo makes announcements almost monthly that Libyan-backed terrorists have been apprehended and plots thwarted.
Egypt also fears the possibility of virtual encirclement by hostile neighbors, with Libya to the west, Sudan to the south and Israel, with whom relations have been cool, to the east.
Sudan is the largest country in Africa and of major strategic importance. It borders eight other nations, as well as the Red Sea, and effectively controls the upper reaches of the Nile, which is central to Egypt's survival.
Traditionally, Egypt has had strong, often decisive impact on events in Sudan. Under Numeiri, Sudan broke relations with Libya and signed integration and mutual defense pacts with Egypt.
Numeiri--who has taken refuge in Egypt and whose extradition Sudan is demanding--was also the rare Arab leader to have supported Egypt's signing of the Camp David accords with Israel.
However, pushed by discontent with the alleged abuses of the Numeiri government and the pressures of the growing rebellion in the non-Muslim south, top military commanders seized power. Gen. Abdul-Rahman Suwar Dahab, the leader of the coup, has said he will maintain close ties to Egypt but will normalize relations with all of Sudan's neighbors--including Libya and Marxist Ethiopia--to end their support of the Sudanese rebels.
The announcement of the new military protocol came as relations between Cairo and the new Sudanese government were already strained by protests in Khartoum demanding that Numeiri, now in exile here, be extradited for trial on charges of treason.
As many as 40,000 Sudanese demonstrated in front of the Egyptian embassy in Khartoum last Thursday, demanding that Numeiri be returned. Egyptian officials have said privately that they believe the protests were the work of pro-Libyan elements seeking to provoke a break between Egypt and Sudan.
U.S. officials in Khartoum have taken exhaustive security precautions because of concern that Libyan agents being infiltrated into the Sudanese capital may strike at American representatives.
The United States provided most of the economic support for the Numeiri government and continues to underwrite the current rulers, particularly with food support. The nation is virtually bankrupt and racked by famine that could cost hundreds of thousands of lives.
The United States is also the only source of supply for Sudan's military. Defense Minister Mohammed said last month that Sudan was seeking to "diversify" its military suppliers to prevent the country from becoming totally dependent on one source.