New Country Likely to Emerge from Sudan's Referendum
A new country is widely expected to emerge on the African continent following southern Sudan's independence referendum, which begins Sunday.
The week-long poll gives the Sudanese voters a choice between staying united with the rest of Sudan or breaking away to form an independent country.
The vote was promised in the 2005 peace agreement that ended Sudan's civil war between the Muslim majority north and the mainly Christian and animist south.
The U.N. Security Council has expressed "deep concern" about the lack of an agreement on the future of the oil-producing Abyei region. Abyei was scheduled to hold a separate referendum Sunday to decide whether to join the north or the south, but the poll was put off because of disputes over who would be eligible to vote.
The disputes have sparked fears that regardless of the outcome of the balloting, Sudan may plunge back into civil war.
Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has made comments to allay fears of war, saying the north will "celebrate" the south's independence if that is what voters choose.
The U.S. Carter Center has dispatched 100 observers to monitor the vote in Sudan and at overseas polls.