Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter says southern Sudan's independence referendum will likely meet international standards.
Mr. Carter told reporters in the southern capital Juba Thursday that he thinks the poll will meet standards for both the conduct of the vote and the freedom of voters.
The former president is in Sudan to observe the weeklong poll, which runs through Saturday.
Mr. Carter said southern Sudan will likely vote for independence, though he added that final results probably will not be known until the first week of February.
He also called on international creditors to forgive all or most of Sudan's debt. He said the move would give the north and south access to new funds and help them survive the shock of separation.
The referendum is part of the 2005 peace deal that ended Sudan's north-south civil war.
Under rules of the poll, a majority of voters must choose separation in order for southern Sudan to become an independent country.
In addition, 60 percent of registered voters must take part in the poll. The referendum commission said Wednesday that the threshold has already been reached.