KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Opposition leader Hassan al-Turabi said Sudan would soon see an "Arab Spring" popular uprising because President Omar Hassan al-Bashir was unable to overcome an economic crisis and end insurgencies in Darfur and border regions.
Bashir is under increasing pressure after his country lost much of its oil production to newly-independent South Sudan. The loss of oil revenues is fuelling inflation as food and other imports have become more expensive, hitting hard Sudanese who have suffered years of conflict and U.S. sanctions.
"I expect the Sudanese people to stage a revolution and I think this will happen very soon," said Turabi, who heads the opposition Popular Congress Party.
"I hope it will be a peaceful revolution so we can get a real multi-party parliamentary system," he told reporters.
He said only the overthrow of the government would end Sudan's problems because Bashir was unable to overcome the economic crisis and end insurgencies in Darfur and two border states.
Sudan has seen some small protests in Khartoum and the underdeveloped east that have become more frequent as inflation has risen, hitting 18.1 percent in December.
One of the most prominent Sudanese politicians, Turabi was the spiritual leader behind the Islamist government when Bashir seized power in 1989 but the two men later fell out.
The security services this week closed down the al-Rai al-Shaab newspaper owned by Turabi's party, saying it had violated professional standards.
Turabi said he expected authorities to arrest him again because of his call for "regime change". He has been in and out of prison since his split from Bashir's party in 1999/2000.
Popular uprisings toppled leaders in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya last year. More than 5,000 people have been killed in Syria, according to the United Nations, in a crackdown against anti-government protests which began in March.
Government officials say Sudan is different from Arab countries witnessing mass protests and the government is capable of overcoming the crisis by diversifying the economy away from oil.
Sudan lost two-thirds of its oil production, the main source of state revenues, when South Sudan broke away in July under a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of civil war.
But tensions remain between the two countries over unresolved issues such as border violence and the sharing of oil revenues and other assets.
Washington placed sanctions on Sudan in 1993, listing Khartoum as a state sponsor of terrorism for hosting militants including Osama bin Laden who was an ally of Turabi. It added a trade embargo in 1997.