The evacuation of almost 300 Americans from Khartoum, amid fears of retaliation for United States raids on Libya, overshadowed Sudan's first multi-party election in 18 years. The evacuation, mainly of nonessential embassy staff and dependents, followed last Tuesday's shooting injury of William Calkins, an embassy communications officer, by an unknown gunman in the Sudanese capital.
The US said a Libya connection was suspected in the shooting, and the State Department expressed concern for the safety of US citizens. It warned last week that ``due to the presence in Khartoum of terrorists, posing life-threatening dangers to US citizens, Americans should not travel to the Sudanese capital.''
Meanwhile, the centrist Islamic Umma Party, which has close links to Libya, was headed for victory yesterday. Observers in the Sudanese capital do not exclude the possibility that the new government might align its foreign policy yet closer to Tripoli.
There have been several anti-American demonstrations in the streets of Khartoum since the US air strike against Libya last week.
The Khartoum authorities joined the condemnation of the US raid and issued a terse statement denouncing what they called ``a terrorist attack.'' The Sudanese ambassador to Washington was recalled to Khartoum, in protest against the attack.
Relations between Washington and Sudanese authorities have been frosty since Gen. Abdel Rahman Swareddahab overthrew pro-American President Jaafar Nimeiry on April 6, 1985. General Swareddahab is to step down as head of state after the newly elected Constituent Assembly votes in a government on April 26.
Since the overthrow of the former pro-Western President, Khartoum authorities have moved closer to more radical Arab states, such as Libya and Syria. Shortly after he took power, Swareddahab signed a military and cultural training accord with Libya and re-established diplomatic relations with Tripoli.
Large numbers of Libyans have since been arriving in Sudan. An American aid worker evacuated to Nairobi on Sunday said he had seen between 300 and 700 Libyans in El Fasher, 500 miles west of the capital. The aid worker, who asked not to be identified, said the Libyans had arrived at the small desert town some two weeks ago, ``apparently at the invitation of the government.'' He said they claimed to have brought in food aid.
But US officials say a convoy of Libyan military equipment arrived in El Fasher in mid-March, and that further shipments are currently on their way.
The two parties leading the elections, as counting came to a close yesterday, both have strong ties to Libya. Members of the centrist Islamic Umma and Democratic Unionist parties spent much of Nimeiry's 16-year-rule exiled in Libya.
With returns in from 205 of 301 constituencies, Umma held 98 seats, ahead of the Democratic Unionists with 63. The fundamentalist National Islamic Front took 28 and the balance were taken by communists, independent candidates, and tribal parties.
Results were still expected from 31 constituencies in war-torn southern Sudan and 28 constituencies reserved for graduate students.
The guerrilla war, pitting the Sudanese People's Liberation Army against government troops in the south, forced the Khartoum authorities to cancel elections in 37 constituencies.
Sudan, which has a total foreign debt in excess of $9 billion, spends between $400,000 and $800,000 every day to support the war effort. Since the US stopped supplying weapons after the fall of Nimeiry, Khartoum has been getting most of its military hardware from Syria, Jordan, and Libya.