CAIRO, Egypt (AP) _ Sudan's information minister said Thursday that the U.S. attack on a pharmaceutical plant in the Sudanese capital was ``a criminal act'' against the country.

Ghazi Salah-Eddin also told state-run television that he believed President Clinton acted to draw public attention from his relationship with a former White House intern.

Salah-Eddin said two U.S. warplanes fired five missiles that struck the Al-Shifa Pharmaceutical Factory at 7:15 p.m. local time. He did not indicate whether the factory sustained any damage or whether there were casualties.

But the governor of Khartoum, Majthob al-Khalifa, told Sudanese television that the factory was destroyed and that several people working at the facility were injured.

He said fire engines had been sent to try to extinguish the blaze and that several workers were unaccounted for and feared trapped in the factory. The broadcasts were monitored in Cairo.

Sudanese television footage showed flames lighting up the night sky, and piles of twisted steel and metal. A few people, one with his hand over his mouth and another wearing a mask over his mouth and nose, were pictured walking around the building. It wasn't immediately clear exactly where the pictures were taken.

Earlier, state-run television said that Sudan was ``subjected to an aerial strike by unjust American warplanes that aimed at strategic targets.''

The announcer ended the broadcast by saying ``Allah Akbar,'' the rallying cry of Muslims meaning ``God is Great'' and added: ``We will defend our country.''

Ali Adam, a security guard at the U.N. office in Khartoum, said the streets were quiet in the capital.

Late last year, a Sudanese opposition group claimed that the government was making chemical weapons and using them in its war against southern rebels.

The Eritrea-headquartered National Democratic Alliance charged that the Sudanese government was producing chemical weapons at factories at three sites: in the Kafourni neighborhood in north Khartoum; in the town of Mayo, south of the capital; and in Wau, a town 600 miles southwest of Khartoum.

The alliance groups opposition politicians and rebel factions dedicated to ousting Sudan's leader, Lt. Gen. Omar el-Bashir, who took power in a military coup in 1989 and installed an Islamic regime.

Southern rebels have been fighting since 1983 for more autonomy for the south's Christians and animists from the Islamic north.