International observers have given their approval to Sudan’s referendum on secession.
The European Union said Monday the week-long vote to decide the country’s future was credible and carried out peacefully.
A group of observers led by former U.S. president Jimmy Carter also said the vote was “consistent with international standards.”
The Carter Center said that based on early results “it appears virtually certain” the mostly Christian and animist south will secede from the mainly Muslim north.
An announcement of final results is not expected until early next month. If the people of the south approve independence, southern Sudan will become its own country in July.
An Associated Press review Sunday of early results at 10 sites in found 30,000 votes were recorded with almost 96 percent of the ballots in favor of secession. Analysts expect voting tallies throughout south Sudan will be similar.
On Sunday, South Sudanese President Salva Kiir urged his people to “forgive” northern fighters in Sudan’s long civil war.
Mr. Kiir made his remarks, his first since the week-long voting period concluded Saturday, from the pulpit of a Catholic church Sunday in the southern capital, Juba.
U.S. President Barack Obama congratulated south Sudan on the vote, calling it “an inspiration to the world.”
Election officials have confirmed that voter turnout far exceeded the 60 percent mark needed to make the poll valid.
Voting was largely peaceful, although there have been deadly tribal clashes along the north-south border in the oil-rich Abyei region. Officials say at least 46 people have been killed in recent days.
Control of the disputed Abyei region is one of several issues the north and south must resolve.
Nearly 4 million people registered to vote in the referendum.voa