President of Sudan OKs south's vote to secede
Updated: 2011-02-08 09:30
KHARTOUM - Sudan's president on Monday said he accepted a southern vote for independence in a referendum that is set to create Africa's newest state and open up a fresh period of uncertainty in the increasingly volatile region.
Final results from the plebiscite were due later on Monday, but preliminary figures show 98.83 percent of voters from Sudan's oil-producing south chose to secede from the north. Sudan is now expected to split in two on July 9.
"Today we received these results and we accept and welcome these results because they represent the will of the southern people," Bashir said in an address on state TV.
The referendum is the climax of a 2005 north-south peace deal that set out to end Africa's longest civil war.
Bashir further vowed to protect all the southerners who live in north Sudan together with their properties, saying "no southerner will be affected by the separation".
Bashir's comments allayed fears that the split could reignite conflict over the control of the south's oil reserves.
Both sides avoided major outbreaks of violence over the past five years. But they failed to overcome decades of deep mutual distrust to persuade southerners to embrace unity.
Hundreds of people started gathering in the blistering heat of the southern capital Juba on Monday to celebrate the official results.
Washington has signaled it is ready to remove Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terrorism after a successful referendum, and help in easing crippling trade sanctions.
Deep uncertainties remain over the economic and political stability of both territories over the next five months of intense negotiations over how to share their oil revenues and other unresolved issues.
Landlocked south Sudan is almost entirely dependent on oil revenues and has struggled to find other sources of income to support its economy, weighed down by the huge costs of its army and civil service wages.
Other burning issues include the division of Sudan's crippling debt, the position of the north-south border, the ownership of the contested oil-producing Abyei region and the regionally divisive share out of water from the river Nile.
More than 37 people died in clashes in Abyei in January, amid deadlock over who should be eligible to vote in a plebiscite that was due to coincide with the southern referendum on whether the region stays with the north or joins the south.
Abyei is home to the Ngok Dinka tribe, who are expected to support joining an independent south, while the Misseriya largely support the north.
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