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South Sudan votes for independence

North accepts results but clashes break out on border.

South Sudan independence
A man with a South Sudan tie and lapel pin celebrates the announcement of the results of the referendum in Juba in which 99 percent of voters chose independence for the South. (Phil Moore/AFP/Getty Images)

NAIROBI, Kenya — Southern Sudanese voted almost unanimously for separation from the North according to official results of a referendum on self-determination released late Monday and accepted by Khartoum and world powers, but reports of days of clashes killing dozens of people in disputed oil-rich areas underscored the shakiness of peace in what will be the world’s newest country.

According to results announced in the capital Khartoum 99 percent of voters opted for secession in the week-long referendum that began on Jan. 9. Turnout was also close to complete with 3.8 million valid ballots cast out of 3.9 million registered voters.

"The referendum was correct, accurate and transparent and we have no objection to the results,” announced Mohamed Ibrahim Khalid, chairman of the referendum commission, to cheers of southern Sudanese watching the news on a row of television sets.

In recent years there was little question which way the vote would go and shortly before the results were read President Omar al-Bashir, widely seen as the biggest obstacle to southern independence, conceded the inevitable: “South Sudan has chosen secession,” he said in a speech at the headquarters of his ruling National Congress Party.

“But we are committed to the links between the North and the South, and we are committed to good relations based on cooperation," he said.

Later, in a televised address Bashir reiterated his acceptance. “Today we received these results and we accept and welcome these results because they represent the will of the southern people,” he said.

Bashir’s comments were quickly echoed by the United States and other world powers. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton congratulated Sudan on a “peaceful and orderly vote.”

Clinton added: “We urge both northern and southern leaders to continue to work together toward full implementation,” of the 2005 internationally-brokered Comprehensive Peace Agreement that laid the ground for the independence referendum.

She welcomed Bashir’s acceptance of the result saying the United States was now “initiating the process” of removing Sudan from its list of state sponsors of terror, an incentive designed to persuade Khartoum to allow the referendum to go ahead peacefully and accept its result.