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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama said on Monday the United States intends to recognize South Sudan as a sovereign country in July, as Washington began the process of removing Sudan from a terrorism blacklist.
"After decades of conflict, the images of millions of southern Sudanese voters deciding their own future was an inspiration to the world and another step forward in Africa's long journey toward justice and democracy," Obama said in a statement.
"Now, all parties have a responsibility to ensure that this historic moment of promise becomes a moment of lasting progress," he said.
The people of South Sudan voted overwhelmingly to declare independence in final results of a referendum announced on Monday, opening the door to Africa's newest state and a fresh period of uncertainty for the fractured region.
Obama said a peace agreement must be implemented fully.
"At the same time, there must be an end to attacks on civilians in Darfur and a definitive end to that conflict," he said.
The United States would work with the governments of Sudan and Southern Sudan to ensure a smooth and peaceful transition to independence, he said.
"For those who meet all of their obligations, there is a path to greater prosperity and normal relations with the United States, including examining Sudan's designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism," he said.
"And while the road ahead will be difficult, those who seek a future of dignity and peace can be assured that they will have a steady partner and friend in the United States."
Presence on the U.S. state sponsors of terrorism list bars a country from receiving U.S. arms exports, controls sales of items with military and civilian applications, limits U.S. aid and requires Washington to vote against loans to the country from international financial institutions.
The U.S. State Department said it is initiating the process to remove Sudan from the state sponsors of terrorism list but stressed it would only be dropped if it met all criteria under U.S. law.
"Removal of the state sponsor of terrorism designation will take place if and when Sudan meets all criteria spelled out in U.S. law, including not supporting international terrorism for the preceding six months and providing assurance it will not support such acts in the future, and fully implements the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, including reaching a political solution on Abyei and key post-referendum arrangements," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in a statement.
Reporting by Jeff Mason and Arshad Mohammed