The United States should give an unequivocal "no" to Sudan's request for $150 million in food aid at a time when Sudan's own air force has bombed food shipments earmarked for rebel areas.

The Sudan, a vast semiarid region in northern Africa, has been engulfed for years in civil war and is facing widespread famine. But cynical bombing of relief supplies is enough to disqualify the nation from receiving any more food shipments.Officials say bombs have been dropped on Red Cross barges on the Nile River near the southern Sudan village of Bor, a major transit area for relief supplies. Bombs also have fallen on other places where international agencies such as the World Food Program, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the International Committee for the Red Cross are operating.

As a U.S. relief official says, "It's almost unimaginable that a government facing a disaster of epic proportions would have the audacity to bomb food shipments at the same time they are asking for more food assistance."

Opposing sides in the African nation have not been able to agree on a cease-fire. The war involves the largely Moslem north against the mainly non-Moslem south.

An estimated 250,000 people died in the Sudan two years ago from disease and starvation. A major international effort, "Operation Lifeline," apparently forestalled a similar calamity in 1989.

UNICEF officials predict that even more people could die this year than lost their lives in 1988 because of crop failures. Widespread drought affects the entire country.

U.S. authorities besieged with requests for financial aid to Sudan should remind the African nation's leaders that they should not look to America for help as long as they tolerate attacks on existing relief operations within their country.