Washington: The US will recognize Southern Sudan as an independent country in July, President Barack Obama said Monday following a referendum that granted the southern part of the country`s bid to secede from the north.
"I congratulate the people of Southern Sudan for a successful and inspiring referendum in which an overwhelmingly majority of voters chose independence," Obama said in a statement shortly after the results were announced.
"I am therefore pleased to announce the intention of the United States to formally recognize Southern Sudan as a sovereign, independent state in July 2011," he said.
Officials in Sudan said Monday that the results of a January referendum showed Southern Sudan voted overwhelmingly - nearly 99 percent - in favor of independence.
Holding a referendum was part of a US-mediated 2005 peace agreement that ended more than two years of civil war between the mostly Muslim north and largely Christian and animist south.
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the US has initiated a process of removing the government of Sudan from its terrorism blacklist.
The US had discussed the possibility of removing the state sponsor of terrorism designation provided the Sudanese government complied with the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.
"In line with the bilateral discussions held between the United States and the government of Sudan, ... the United States is initiating the process of withdrawing Sudan`s state sponsor of terrorism designation," Clinton said in a statement. She commended Khartoum for accepting the outcome.
Sudan has been on the blacklist since 1993 and most US trade with Khartoum has been cut off for more than a decade. The other three nations on the list are Cuba, Iran and Syria.
Clinton, however, cautioned that Sudan still must follow through on implementing the CPA, including reaching agreements with the south on post-referendum issues like oil revenues, in order to be removed from the list, and demonstrate that it has no connections to terrorism for a period of six months.
"We urge both northern and southern leaders to continue to work together toward full implementation of the CPA, and urge them to work expediently to reach agreement on the post-referendum arrangements that will define their future and lead to a mutually beneficial relationship," Clinton said.
Clinton urged the north and south to also work toward resolving the status of the Abyei border region, which has yet to decide whether to align with the Khartoum or Southern Sudan. A vote on a referendum on that issue was delayed.
She also called on the southern government to be inclusive, to improve its capabilities in providing services to its constituents "as well as to adopt long-term security and economic arrangements with the north."
The official announcement in Khartoum Monday confirmed an earlier statement by the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission, which showed 98.83 percent of almost four million voters had opted for independence.
More than two million people died in the 1983-2005 civil war.