The United States has suspended payment of nearly $200 million in economic assistance to Sudan, one of its largest African recipients of aid, because of the steady deterioration in the economic and political situation there.
The decision, made late last year and not publicly disclosed, reflects a growing despair among Western donors and international aid agencies about how to deal with Sudanese President Jaafar Numeiri, who for the past several years has been bent on the controversial Islamization of his disparate country, apparently without regard for the economic and political cost.
U.S. officials said the decision was made after months of "very high-level, across-the-board attention" in the Reagan Administration and that the Sudanese were informed of it in mid-December.
The decision was not an isolated one. An economic rescue package put together in 1982 by the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and Western donors worth $1.5 billion annually in aid and deferred debt payments already had fallen apart because Sudan was $100 million in arrears to the IMF and $264 million on its entire 1984 debt service.
Decided on Freeze
Last fall, U.S. policy-makers debated whether to freeze $102 million in economic support funds earmarked for Sudan for the 1984 fiscal year but still unspent, and they also debated what to do about $112 million for 1985.
They decided in December that the United States would not disburse the money because the whole $750-million IMF-sponsored debt-relief plan had gone awry, one source said.
The "freeze," as State Department officials call it, has not affected either Washington's regular economic assistance program to Sudan of $28 million this fiscal year, the $45-million military assistance program or the sending of emergency food to help refugees. Numeiri, regarded as one of the United States' closest African friends, has become the subject of a major dilemma for the Reagan Administration, which views his country as strategically important to its African and Middle East policies.
Numeiri has offered the use of Sudan's air bases and naval facilities for the U.S. Central Command forces and assisted in the airlift of thousands of Ethiopian Jews to Israel.