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Last Updated: Sunday, 5 March 2006, 17:40 GMT
Williams attacks Guantanamo camp
Rowan Williams
The archbishop warned of a "more visible rupture"

The Archbishop of Canterbury has launched a scathing attack on Guantanamo Bay, branding the US prison camp an "extraordinary legal anomaly".

Dr Rowan Williams said holding people who had not been found guilty, or allowed access to proper legal channels, set a dangerous precedent.

He also told BBC One's The Heaven and Earth Show the Anglican Church faced a rupture on the issue of homosexuality.

The archbishop was interviewed during a visit to Sudan, broadcast on Sunday.

"I think what we've got in Guantanamo is an extraordinary legal anomaly creating a new category of custody with prisoners," he said.

Words have consequences, policies have consequences
Dr Rowan Williams

"Now precedents matter in law, nationally and internationally. Any message given, that any state can just over-ride some of these basic habeas corpus-type provisions, is going to be very welcome to tyrants elsewhere in the world, now and in the future.

"Once again, words have consequences, policies have consequences. What, in 10 years' time, are people going to be able to say about a system that tolerates this?"

'Decades to heal'

Dr Williams also warned that the worldwide Anglican Church faced a fundamental "rupture" on the issue of homosexuality.

He said he feared any split could take decades to heal.

Traditionalists have given the Church in the US until June to reverse its approach on ordaining gay clergy - or face expulsion from the Communion.

Some liberals back a looser, federal structure for the Anglican Communion.

Dr Williams said he feared any split would run too deep to make this possible.

"If there is a rupture, it's going to be a more visible rupture, it is not going to settle down quietly to being a federation," he said.

"And I suppose my anxiety about it is that if the communion is broken we may be left with even less than a federation."

'Starkest warning'

He warned that it could take decades to re-establish some sort of relationship between the different factions in the Anglican Communion.

BBC religious affairs correspondent Robert Pigott said the comments were "Dr Williams' starkest public warning about the impending schism in the Anglican Communion over sexuality".

Our correspondent said the archbishop seemed to be aiming his remarks at the American Church.

The church has been given until its governing convention meets in June to reverse its liberal approach to the ordination of gay clergy and the blessing of same-sex relationships.

Traditionalists insist that active homosexuality is outlawed by the Bible.

The ordination in the US of openly-gay Gene Robinson as a bishop has been threatening to split the communion.

His appointment as Bishop of New Hampshire in 2003 sparked a row across the Anglican Communion, with many conservative, evangelical and developing world priests outraged.

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