South Sudan's vote reaches 60 percent

South Sudan has reached the 60% turnout needed to pass the referendum on secession from the north, the south's ruling party and ex-rebel group says.

"The 60% threshold has been achieved but we are asking for a 100% (turnout)," the SPLM's Anne Itto said.

She did not give exact figures, but said it was based on polling centre reports for the first three days of the week-long vote which began on Sunday.

The poll was agreed as part of the 2005 deal to end the two-decade civil war.

The Sudan Peoples' Liberation Movement have been running the region since that peace agreement.

Official turnout figures - which along with the preliminary result, are not expected until the beginning of February - are the responsibility of the South Sudan Referendum Commission.

Nearly all of those registered to vote - almost four million people - live in the south.

Ms Itto said people have stopped asking each other "how are you?" as a greeting and instead are asking "have you voted?", AP news agency reported.

Sabit Alley, a member of the referendum commission, told the BBC they do not have exact statistics for the south because of communication problems.

But from information collected so far, 46% of people had cast their ballot in the south in the first two days.

"In the north 25% have voted - Khartoum state is quite high, over 50%," he said.

The vote, in which only southerners are taking part, is widely expected to approve secession.

Meanwhile the US state department has indicated it could remove Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terrorism if the north recognises the outcome of the poll.

"It is a process that takes some time, but by beginning the process in the wake of the referendum, the hope is if they meet all the conditions, it can be done by July," US diplomat Princeton Lyman told AFP news agency.

Southern Sudan would become Africa's 54th nation on 9 July 2011 if the referendum is passed.

North and south Sudan have suffered decades of conflicts driven by religious and ethnic divides, with an estimated 1.5 million people killed in the civil war.

BBC online, Jan. 12th, 2011

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