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South Sudan Vote Passes 60 Percent Participation

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Southern Sudanese officials say they have received the 60 percent voter turnout needed to validate the region's landmark independence referendum.

Anne Itto, a senior official for the Sudanese Peoples Liberation Movement, made the announcement Wednesday as the fourth day of voting got underway.

Official turnout figures are the responsibility of the South Sudan Referendum Commission, which has not confirmed that the threshold has been reached.

Nearly 4 million people are registered to vote in the referendum which is widely expected to lead to southern Sudan seceding from the rest of the country. Preliminary results are expected next week.

Leaders from north and south Sudan are scheduled to meet to discuss recent clashes in the disputed border areas which killed at least 46 people since Friday.

Despite the violence, U.S. Ambassador Princeton Lyman on Tuesday called the vote "a courageous act," saying he is impressed with the willingness of the Sudanese people to make a very tough decision.

Lynn said the United States could remove Sudan from its list of states that sponsor terrorism as early as July if Khartoum recognizes the results of the referendum.

Former U.S President Jimmy Carter, who is in the country as an observer, told VOA that he has been assured by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir that he will accept the results and help the south regardless of the outcome.

Mr. Carter expressed confidence that the ongoing referendum will be transparent and credible.

Article by VOA News