Khartoum’s links with Iran came under scrutiny after Bashir’s regime accused Israel of an October 23 strike against the Yarmouk military factory in the capital, which led to speculation that Iranian weapons were stored or manufactured there.
Israel refused all comment on Sudan’s accusation about the factory blast.
But a top Israeli defence official, Amos Gilad, said Sudan “serves as a route for the transfer, via Egyptian territory, of Iranian weapons to Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists”.
Later in October two Iranian navy vessels called at Port Sudan, followed by two more in December, in what Khartoum described as a “normal” port stop.
At the same time, Sudan courts Saudi investment and many Sudanese work in the kingdom, having abandoned their impoverished homeland and its economic crisis for better opportunities abroad.
Bashir himself underwent minor surgery in Saudi Arabia last November.
A regional analyst predicted that barring Bashir’s plane will spark “a diplomatic crisis” between Tehran and Riyadh but will cause only a minor irritation in Saudi-Sudanese relations.
“President Bashir will be upset but he needs the Saudi government. He needs money. He needs political support,” the analyst said, asking not to be named.
“I think the Saudi authorities will continue to support Bashir’s regime, for sure.”
Rowhani takes over from his predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose provocative policies in two turbulent four-year terms left Iran isolated internationally and struggling economically.