Sudan and the United States enjoyed generally close relations during the late 1970s and early 1980s. In fact, then Vice President George Bush had paid an official visit to Khartoum only one month before Nimeiri's overthrow in April 1985, and Nimeiri himself was in Washington trying to obtain more United States aid when the mass demonstrations that culminated in his downfall erupted. Both the transitional military government and the parliamentary government viewed past United States support for Nimeiri suspiciously, and were determined to end the de facto alliance that had developed after 1979. Because the most visible symbol of this alliance was Operation Bright Star, the biennial joint military exercises that had taken place partly on Sudanese territory, one of the first policy decisions was to terminate Sudan's participation in Operation Bright Star. Nevertheless, relations with the United States remained important while Sadiq al Mahdi was prime minister because Washington continued to be a significant donor of foreign aid.
This situation changed following the 1989 military coup. Washington terminated all economic assistance to Sudan in accordance with the provisions of a foreign assistance appropriations law that barred all United States assistance to a country whose democratically elected government had been overthrown by the military. Although this legislation included mechanisms for the Department of State to waive this provision, the Bush administration chose not to do so. The RCC-NS viewed the aid cut-off as an unfriendly gesture. Subsequently, when the United States continued to provide humanitarian assistance for the thousands of Sudanese being displaced by drought and civil war, administering this relief aid directly through the United States Agency for International Development, the RCC-NS accused Washington of interfering in the country's internal affairs. Khartoum's reluctance to cooperate with the humanitarian program prompted United States officials in early 1990 to criticize publicly the Bashir government for impeding the distribution of emergency aid and even confiscating relief supplies. These charges, which were echoed by the British, the French, and several international relief agencies, further antagonized the RCC-NS.
In this atmosphere, it was perhaps inevitable that Bashir would mistrust the motives of the United States when it proposed a peace initiative to end the civil war. In May 1990, after temporizing for several weeks, the RCC-NS rejected the United States proposals for a cease-fire. Khartoum's support for Iraq during the Persian Gulf war further strained relations between the two governments. Finally, in February 1991, the United States withdrew all its diplomatic personnel from Sudan and closed its embassy in Khartoum.
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