January 31, 2011 / 5:58 PM / in 7 years

Sudan says accepts south secession vote: Vice President

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - Sudan’s vice president said on Monday he accepted the oil-producing south’s split after the first official results showed a 99 percent vote for independence in a referendum hoping to end a bitter cycle of civil war.

South Sudanese people line up to cast their vote at a polling station during the referendum in Diling, in South Kordofan, on the border between South and North Sudan, January 10, 2011. REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

The January 9 vote culminated a 2005 north-south peace deal, which aims to put an end to the conflict which claimed 2 million lives and destabilized much of east Africa. The south will likely celebrate independence on July 9.

“We announce our agreement and our acceptance of the result of the referendum announced yesterday,” Vice President Ali Osman Mohamed Taha told reporters in the north’s first reaction since the results.

“We wish our brothers in the south good luck and a fruitful future in organizing the issues surrounding the new country.”

The comments end speculation that hard-line elements in the Khartoum government would delay recognition of the referendum to garner leverage ahead of talks on how to divide the country’s assets and liabilities.

Taha negotiated the 2005 accord with southern rebel leader John Garang who died three weeks after taking office in the coalition government formed under the deal.

The south is now looking to the international community to recognize its independence, which will likely happen once the final results are confirmed next month.

“We expect this outcome to be confirmed by members of the international community,” South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir said at an African Union summit in Addis Ababa.

“We have no interest in returning to the bitterness and divisions of the past. We desire the democratic transformation of Sudan. Today the ballot box has triumphed over the bullet.”

Observers have urged the north and south to resolve outstanding disputes over the border — along which much of the country’s oil wealth lies — and the status of the central Abyei region claimed by both.

Both Taha and Kiir said Monday they were ready to engage. “Resolution of all outstanding issues is essential to maintaining stability and progress throughout Sudan and the region,” Kiir said, offering reassurances to northern nomads that they will maintain grazing rights in the south post- secession.

Sudan’s civil war was fueled by differences over oil, ethnicity, religion and ideology.

Additional reporting by Richard Lough and Aaron Maasho in Addis Ababa

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