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Ousted Sudanese President Denies Coup Attempt

June 19, 1989

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) _ Sudan’s former president, Gaafar Nimeiri, on Monday denied claims by the Sudanese government that his supporters in Khartoum planned a coup but were foiled by the army. Sudan said it arrested 66 people in the plot.

Sudanese Prime Minister Sadek Mahdi told Parliament in Khartoum on Monday that the plot was aimed at ″manslaughter in Parliament″ and at ″uprooting the democratic system in Sudan and serving the strategies of other countries.″

Mahdi did not identify the countries but assailed ″the feverish activities of the bloodthirsty Nimeiri in Egypt.″

Nimeiri said from his exile home in Cairo that the conspiracy story was invented to divert the Sudanese people’s attention from their problems.

Sudan’s military command said Sunday that soldiers and civilians loyal to Nimeiri were arrested after the plot was discovered. It implied but did not say their aim was to restore power to the former military ruler ousted on April 6, 1985.

Mahdi said his government ″will promptly and harshly deal with this coup attempt ... whatever be the price.″

His security adviser, Abdel Rahman Faraha, said 18 military men and 48 civilians were arrested in connection with the plot.

Sudanese newspapers said earlier Monday that 14 army officers, including six brigadiers and two colonels, and 48 civilians were arrested. One newspaper, Al-Sudani, said a lieutenant general headed the plotters and remained at large.

Editor Sidahmed Khalifa reportedly was arrested. His newspaper, Al-Watan, recently published an interview with Nimeiri and said Nimeiri would return in two weeks.

Newspapers quoted security sources as saying the plotters planned to strike Monday as Mahdi addressed Parliament. They said the plan was to surround the assembly building with demonstrators, then arrest senior government officials trapped inside.

Nimeiri scoffed at the reports.

″This is a poor plan by the government, which is trying to divert the masses from their suffering,″ he said in an interview. ″The government is trying to increase prices again, and they want to divert the people’s attention.″

Nimeiri said he was told Sudan’s Interior Ministry for weeks compiled lists of his supporters, intending to arrest them on charges of trying to overthrow the government.

″They are always arresting people I knew,″ he said. ″Six months ago, they arrested a southern man who used to help my former chef. They also detained a former butler, and five or six distantly related relatives of mine.″

Nimeiri ruled Sudan in a mostly pro-Western military dictatorship for 16 years. He contends he enjoys widespread civilian and military support at home, although none is evident.

″The masses are calling for the return of Nimeiri ... because they know maybe I can help them,″ he said.

But ″I am not trying to overthrow the government,″ he said.

Nevertheless, Nimeiri said this month that he sent tapes and copies of speeches to Sudan in May urging the Sudanese to overthrow Mahdi’s civilian administration, which he called a ″government of thieves.″

Sudan’s economy is in a shambles because of a $13 billion foreign debt and southern civil war costing $1 million a day.

Many small demonstrations protesting inflation and commodity shortages have occurred in recent days, including Sunday before the coup plot announcement.

Demonstrators on Sunday urged a return to military rule unless supplies of bread and sugar are increased.

Update hourly