Oman helping Egypt to regain standing with moderate Arabs

Oman, Egypt's only Arab friend during the last three years, has successfully initiated an Egyptian-Arab dialogue that might soon reinstate Egypt's supremacy in the region.

The conservative Oman sultanate has taken steps to enhance President Anwar Sadat's role as the Soviet's prime enemy in the Middle East and help reintroduce him on the Arab scene. This was done through:

* Coordination on strategic issues. The two countries were the first two Arab states to offer the United States military facilities, and thus are regarded as the two pivotal points the US can use to check Soviet expansionism.

* Bridging the gap separating Egypt from moderate Arabs. These top-level deliberations have lately born fruit in the form of the resumption of full diplomatic relations between Cairo and Khartoum, Sudan, and military aid to Iraq.

Oman is already linking Egypt to an emerging six-nation Gulf security pact, of which it is a member. Although other Gulf states have stubbornly resisted letting the US use their military facilities, there is "understanding" of Oman's policy, Oman's ambassador to Cairo Abdullah al-Ghazali told the Monitor.

Although Oman has initially rejected the idea of stationing US troops in the country, Mr. Ghazali says, "If international order is disrupted and the security of Gulf states is endangered, there is no doubt that we will consider that idea. They would not be able to ward off Soviet aggression by just using arms."

Thanks to Oman's mediation, Sudan has joined the Arab pro-Western camp after months of hesitation, and has also offered the US the use of its military bases.

President Sadat quickly responded to Sudanese President Jaafar Nimeri's desire to restore relations, as communicated by Oman Sultan Qaboos ibn Said's chief foriegn policy adviser, Qais Abdul Minim al-Zawawi, at a private meeting held here Feb. 24, official sources told this reporter.

The prospect of a Soviet-sponsored regime on Egypt's southern border was a "nightmare" that Egyptian officials already had contemplated how to of fight. Concern for the future of Mr. Numeiri's regime rose as reports reaching Cairo from Khartoum indicated that a Libyan troop infiltration through the common border with Chad was possible.

President Sadat and the Omani emissary have mapped out details of a scheme to heal the Egyptian-Arab rift. The plan calls for upgrading contacts starting with diplomats in the Omani capital and going up to foreign minister level depending on the results achieved.

Since then, both sides have reviewed their stances. The Gulf states realized that the Egypt-Israel peace process was irreversible, and Egypt figured that the Gulf states did not necessarily have to follow the same path.

Although both sides share an interest in reestablishing relations, both already have started laying down conditions. The Baathist regime in Iraq has asked Egypt to bring the normalization of relations with Israel to a halt.

The Iraqi request was turned down, but another Iraqi request, supported by Saudi Arabia, to supply Iraq with spare parts was not. Half of an 8,000-ton shipment of spare parts for Soviet-made SAM missiles, as well as ammunition, left the Red-Sea port of Suez last week under the watchful eye of four ranking Iraqi officers, We stern diplomatic sources said.

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