Senior officials said yesterday that the Reagan administration has made no new security commitment to Sudan, but that stepped-up military assistance, including the dispatch of American "training teams," is likely.
Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr. described as "somewhat overdrawn" statements attributed to Sudanese President Jaafar Nimeri, in an interview Monday with U.S. reporters, that the United States is committed to defend Sudan against attack by Libya.
Nimeri was quoted as saying that he had obtained such a commitment from Haig in a conversation in Cairo Sunday.
"I don't think that it serves any useful purpose to draw specific lines in the sand," Haig said yesterday on ABC's "Good Morning America" television program.
Haig said it is important that threatened Middle East nations know of U.S. concern and willingness to provide material assistance. But "it does not involve commitments of the kind that some of the questioning by reporters would suggest," he said.
Haig and Secretary of Defense Caspar W. Weinberger yesterday participated in a 45-minute National Security Council meeting that reportedly centered on their conversations last weekend in Cairo, including those about Sudan.
Weinberger, on the same early-morning television program, was asked if there is a role for U.S. troops in the defense of Sudan and its neighbor, Egypt. "Not that I know of," he replied.
The two Cabinet officers basically confirmed reports that large-scale U.S. military maneuvers involving several countries are planned, along with a step-up in the pace of already-requested U.S. military assistance. No new details were given.
State Department counselor Robert C. McFarlane, who returned yesterday from a brief visit to the Sudanese capital, Khartoum, is said to be preparing a report on his findings, which may affect the next U.S. steps.
The administration asked Congress in March for $100 million in military sales credits as well as $100 million in economic aid for Sudan.
At the time, the Libyan activity in neighboring Chad, posing a growing threat to the Sudanese, was cited as a reason for the sharp increase in the aid request. The same threat, considered even more serious in the light of recent Middle East events, is behind the present drive to aid Sudan.
The foreign aid authorization bill for economic and military assistance has been bogged down in the House for five months because leaders of the Foreign Affairs Committee will not bring the measure to a floor vote without assurance of the necessary Republican votes to pass it.
The lopsided defeat of the State Department authorization bill a month ago, with three-fourths of the House Republicans voting against it, raised grave doubts that an aid bill can be passed this year.
The administration, meanwhile, will be able to continue spending under a "continuing resolution," and would be able to take money from other foreign aid accounts to assist Sudan if it should choose to do so, according to congressional sources.
"I think it's clear that the administration would like to move with dispatch . . . quickly," said David Gergen, White House communications director, in discussing the aid to Sudan. Gergen said, "We are talking to the Sudanese about ways to accelerate arms shipments."
McFarlane was quoted by State Department spokesman Dean Fischer as saying that the aim was to supply some of the new equipment to Sudan by the end of this year.
Gergen and Fischer told reporters that the United States plans to send "mobile training teams" to teach the Sudanese how to use some of the American military equipment being supplied. Both said the U.S. teams would be for weapons training rather than as advisers to combat units or participants in military action.
According to the Defense Department, two such training teams, totaling about 10 officers and men, were in Sudan during the past few weeks for training on American armored personnel carriers. The trainers have since left.
The military equipment previously slated for Sudan under the administration's March program include trucks, radar and communications equipment, antiaircraft weapons and tanks. Sudan has long been interested in American F5 warplanes, but the cash or credit to pay for them is not available.