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Southern Sudan Votes on Final Day of Historic Referendum

A southern Sudanese voter cast his vote in an almost empty voting station in Juba during the last day of a week long referendum, 15 Jan 2011

Southern Sudan voters are casting ballots Saturday, the last day in the region's week-long landmark independence referendum.

Analysts say there is little suspense about the outcome of the historic poll. Southern Sudan voters are expected to have overwhelmingly voted to breakaway from the north and create the world's newest country.

An official from north Sudan's ruling National Congress Party said Friday his party will accept the outcome of the vote.

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, in Sudan to observe the voting, says the vote will likely meet international standards.

Organizers say voter turnout reached the 60 percent mark needed to make the poll valid on Wednesday.

The United Nations says preliminary results are expected by February 2, with final results to follow within one to two weeks.

Voting has been largely peaceful, although there have been deadly tribal clashes along the north-south border in the disputed Abyei district. Officials say at least 46 people have been killed in recent days.

Control of the Abyei region is one of several issues the north and the south still must resolve.

The independence poll is part of the 2005 peace deal that ended 21 years of war between Sudan's Muslim-majority north and the mainly Christian and animist south.

Nearly four million people registered to vote in the referendum.