Sudan's first vice president said the country could slip back into civil war if an international tribunal issues an arrest warrant for President Omar al-Bashir.
Judges at the International Criminal Court [or ICC] are expected to decide soon on the warrant, requested by prosecutors who accuse Mr. Bashir of war crimes in Darfur.
Vice President Salva Kiir said that if a warrant is issued, Sudan's ruling party will likely abandon the 2005 peace deal that ended the country's north-south civil war, leading to a constitutional crisis.
Kiir represents the semi-autonomous south, which fought a destructive 21-year war with the northern-based government, and is scheduled to vote on independence in 2011.
He became the latest of many Sudanese politicians to warn of negative consequences if the ICC goes after Mr. Bashir.
In his comments, reported by Sudanese media outlets Thursday, Kiir said he raised the issue of the warrant with U.S. officials during his recent visit to Washington. He said he was told the U.S. has no influence on the case.
ICC prosecutors accuse the Sudanese president of orchestrating a genocide in Darfur. Sudanese officials have denounced the court and refuse to cooperate with its investigations.
On Wednesday, relatives of an influential Sudanese opposition leader said he was arrested after calling for Mr. Bashir to surrender to the ICC.
Family and staff of Hassan al-Turabi said police took him into custody late Wednesday.
Turabi said Monday that Mr. Bashir should turn himself in to the court to save Sudan from the sanctions and political turmoil that would follow if he continues to defy the court.