The 1989 coup accelerated the trend in Sudan's foreign policy of turning away from traditional allies, such as Egypt and the United States. This trend had begun following the overthrow of Nimeiri's government in 1985. As prime minister, one of Sadiq al Mahdi's foreign policy objectives was to ease the strain that had characterized relations with Ethiopia, Libya, and the Soviet Union during the latter years of Nimeiri's rule. Nevertheless, the country's need for foreign economic assistance to deal with the consequences of drought and civil war generally curtailed the extent to which foreign relations could be realigned.
The Persian Gulf crisis and subsequent war in 1991 caught Sudan in an awkward position. Although Khartoum's officially stated position was one of neutrality, the unofficial government position was one of sympathy for Iraq, stemming largely from a sense of appreciation for the military assistance Baghdad had provided since 1989. Sudan's failure to join the anti-Iraq coalition infuriated Saudi Arabia, which retaliated by suspending much-needed economic assistance, and Egypt, which responded by providing aid to opponents of the Bashir regime. After the RCC-NS sent the deputy leader of the NIF to the Islamic Conference in Baghdad that Iraqi President Saddam Husayn organized in January 1991, Egypt withdrew its ambassador from Khartoum. The RCC-NS's efforts to maintain close relations with Iraq resulted in Sudan's regional isolation.
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